Better safe than sorry

Worker compensation rates may go down. Last week the Yukon Workers' Compensation, Health and Safety Board revealed that it is running a surplus of more than $14 million.

Worker compensation rates may go down.

Last week the Yukon Workers’ Compensation, Health and Safety Board revealed that it is running a surplus of more than $14 million.

That could be good news for business, said Rick Karp, president of the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce.

While rates fell last year, Karp said they are still relatively high.

“We certainly hope that the surplus will be turned back to the business community,” he said.

The Yukon had 1,500 more workers in 2010 than it did in the previous year.

That unprecedented increase in economic activity added more than $5 million to the WCB’s coffers.

Because of the nature of the economic boom, many of those workers were employed in higher risk industries, like construction and mining.

But while there were more workers employed in higher risk jobs, there was also a slight decrease in the number of injuries overall.

And the injuries that workers did sustain have been less severe on average.

“We did make some increases in health and safety because there were more workers in high risk industries,” said Valerie Royle, the CEO of the compensation board.

They’ve added three new safety officers, almost doubling the number they employ.

More were needed because it’s difficult to make inspections in remote bush camps where employers are responsible for their workers safety 24 hours a day, said Royal.

“Mining and construction are difficult because you have to helicopter officers out,” she said. “It increases the complexity of putting resources on the ground.”

While keeping workers safe and getting them back to work helps to keep costs down, there are other considerations for the compensation board, said Mark Pike, the board chair.

“The human cost of an injury is enormous on the family,” he said.

That’s a sentiment that Karp shares.

“No one wants to see someone suffer from a severe injury,” he said. “The business community has continued to put safety as one of our highest priorities.”

Over the last few years, there has also been an improvement in relations between business and the compensation board, said Karp.

“I think we’re all working better together than we have historically,” he said. “In the last two or three years we’ve seen some really good positive movement in that direction.”

The average assessment rates will be presented next week at the WCB’s annual information meeting June 2.

And rates for individual industries will be decided in the fall.

Contact Josh Kerr at

joshk@yukon-news.com

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