time to put lives before reputations

What is more important: a person’s life or a business’ reputation? This is the question the Yukon Workers’ Compensation Health and…

What is more important: a person’s life or a business’ reputation?

This is the question the Yukon Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board must answer.

Is it in the business of protecting employer reputations?

Or is it responsible for the health and safety of the territory’s workers?

Recently, spurred by the Yukon’s runaway injury rate, the board has been talking up worker safety.

It insists that’s the priority.

And it should be.

But recent statements by board chair Craig Tuton contradict the board’s focus on employee injuries and lead one to believe it is more interested in protecting the good name of dangerous employers.

Specifically, Tuton’s board refuses to identify which territorial businesses boast poor safety records.

Tuton insists the territory is too small a place to name names.

That parochial decision is wrongheaded.

Here’s why.

On September 6, the sign outside the WCB’s offices noted there had been 1,295 reported injuries in the territory to that day.

Today, just 22 days later, there have been 1,492 — as of 10:57 a.m.

That’s simply unacceptable.

But it’s far worse when you probe who is getting injured.

Stores, restaurants and catering companies are currently logging the highest injury rates.

And it is the territory’s youngest workers who are in those jobs.

Is your child working for one of those dangerous employers?

You haven’t got a right to know, says Tuton. The territory’s too small a place for that.

So where does the board’s priority lie?

So far this year, more than 239 young Yukoners (those under 25) have been hurt on the job.

Already, the Yukon has seen more children and youth injured than throughout 2006, a year that saw a record number of workplace injuries.

We’re well on our way to breaking the 2006 injury report record of 1,984.

The health and safety board says it is very concerned about this trend.

It has launched certification programs.

It wants to add safety education to the school curriculum.

It wants young people to be better trained.

And yet Tuton’s health and safety board is withholding the one piece of information that would serve workers best — a list of the employers who disregard worker safety.

In fact, Tuton insists it has no intention of ever releasing the names of companies that boast poor worker safety records.

Why?

In BC, which names dangerous employers, injury rates have fallen.

That means workers have been saved from being maimed and killed and the compensation system has saved money, both stated goals of our board.

Such a list would give parents important information to consider before sending their child off to their first job.

It gives older workers the information they need to choose the best employer in a booming market.

It gives employers in certain industry categories important information about which competitor is causing their compensation rates to spike.

And employers with abnormal injury rates might benefit from learning they were outside the industry norm.

The territory is currently a treacherous place to work.

Withholding the names of the most dangerous employers places more importance on reputations than worker safety.

If the health and safety board is serious about protecting workers, and cutting claim costs, it should publish the names of the territory’s most dangerous employers. (RM)

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