The Yukon Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board response to last year’s injury rate reads like a page lifted straight from the silver-lining handbook.
From January 1, 2008, through December 31, 1,936 people had been injured on the job.
The number is staggeringly high, but, according to the compensation board, it represents the very first decrease in workplace injuries in six years.
It called this an achievement.
That’s a tad overstated.
The decrease represents a 1.2 per cent improvement over the 1,960 people injured in 2007.
If those numbers were released by a polling firm, the improvement would be firmly within the statistical margin of error.
It really isn’t very good. Certainly not something to trumpet.
The number of workplace injuries in the territory is way too high. Unacceptably so.
The compensation board is trying to promote workplace safety.
But this is a small territory, and that often complicates such initiatives.
Here, people are more likely to know one another. It makes rule enforcement a lot more difficult. Inspections are tougher to do
—it’s easier to ignore problems, or to soft-peddle the issue. Most people don’t want to rock the boat.
There is a societal tendency to work co-operatively with someone, rather than to bareknuckle them.
But, given the numbers, perhaps it is time to take the velvet gloves off.
In Nova Scotia, they release the names of the employers with the worst injury rates.
There, less than one per cent of employers were responsible for 50 per cent of the province’s injuries.
So, a court ordered the board to release the names of the 25 employers with the worst injury rates.
Societal pressure, it is thought, will force the worst employers to do something to improve workplace safety.
Here, the government refuses to follow a similar approach.
There might be an ulterior motive—the Yukon government is so large, it is statistically likely to have the highest percentage of workplace injuries.
Politically, it wouldn’t look good if it placed in the top five.
So, instead of naming names, Minister Glenn Hart insists the compensation board has appropriate measures in place to curb workplace injuries.
But, the 1,936 workers injured on the job last year suggest that isn’t so.
The Yukon’s per-capita injury rate is among the highest in the country.
The board says last year’s statistical blip is an achievement.
To us, that suggests the bar has been set too low. (Richard Mostyn)