If the Whitehorse business community wants WCB rates to drop, it should work to reduce employee injuries.
It’s that simple.
Last week, the Yukon Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board announced that assessment rates were rising an average of 11 per cent effective January 1.
That gave Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce president Rick Karp a case of the vapours.
The chamber expected assessment rates to drop.
That’s a strange expectation.
Given the dangerous local working conditions, that’s not how the system works.
The WCB was established to protect both workers and businesses.
Through it, workers have relinquished their right to sue employers, which, in the case of a large settlement, might wipe out a business that employed many people, depriving them of their livelihood.
Employers get peace of mind — they don’t have to worry that a single injured employee, or several, will wipe out their life’s work.
Of course, the system works best when there are few injuries.
Like any insurance plan, if an industry embraces safety, then there should be fewer claims and rates drop.
If not, then claim costs rise and so do rates.
This is what is happening in the territory.
The Yukon boasts one of the worst injury records in western Canada.
The claims tally outside the WBC offices is currently rocketing towards last year’s record of 1,984 — that’s fully 13 per cent of the territory’s workforce.
That injury rate is, frankly, ridiculous.
It borders on the criminal.
Something needs to be done.
And, as is often pointed out, businesses take notice when costs start to rise. Clearly, it’s the one thing that gets attention.
Well, several categories of Yukon businesses will see rates drop because they’ve kept their injury rates down.
Farmers, survey companies, school bus lines, metal mines, water-well drillers, air services, outfitters, long-haul truckers, gas drillers and sawmills and bush slashing companies.
These businesses should be rewarded. And they have been.
But more than 50 categories will see rates rise.
Because their claims costs are high.
Because workers in those industries have been injured.
Diamond drill companies, placer miners, exploration companies are going to be the worst hit — because their claims costs exceed the amount the board is paying to their injured workers.
Retailers and restaurants will also see an increase, though far less severe than the aforementioned heavy industries.
Still, the increased costs should force employers to review their operations with an eye to safety.
If they curb injuries, the WCB rates should drop in the future.
That’s the way the system is supposed to work.
Rather than blaming the board, or begrudging injured workers their settlements, businesses should strive to improve safety.
It would improve the bottom line.
And, more important but often forgotten, it might save a life or a limb. (RM)