Publishing companies’ safety records could help Yukoners make informed employment choices and lower workplace injury rates.
That’s what Yukon Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board chair Craig Tuton heard from politicians during an appearance before the legislative assembly Tuesday.
Tuton was presenting the board’s annual report.
Tuesday’s debate on whether to name employers with poor safety records follows an announcement Tuton made at a meeting two weeks ago that assessment rates for 39 of 52 Yukon industries were going up because injury costs were getting higher.
At that same meeting, the Yukon Federation of Labour’s Doug Rody said he was wary of naming companies because it could lead to injured workers being identified.
After hearing the rate-increase announcement, Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce president Rick Karp said he’d like to see the Yukon board scrapped and territorial companies given the option to join BC’s or Alberta’s board.
The Yukon’s compensation board should name the employers with the worst safety records, said NDP MLA Steve Cardiff on Tuesday.
It’s a way to give employees the information they need to make safe employment decisions when they’re looking for work, he said.
“We’re not talking about reporting bad employers; we’re talking about reporting employers with bad safety records or unsafe workplaces on a consistent basis.
“I may be the only one in the Yukon who believes it’s a good idea to publish the names of (employers with bad safety records); I’m not saying all employers with bad safety records, but the worst ones.”
It’s only fair because employers already have the option of accessing an employee’s safety record, said Cardiff.
“I would also argue that the employer, when hiring an employee, has the ability to ask for references from that employee and he can go back to that employee’s previous employer and the employer previous to that,” he said.
“The employer has the hammer. They have the ability to look at an employee and say, ‘You are not working safely and that’s an issue for me, because it’s driving my assessment rates through the ceiling; it’s a burden on my business.’”
Publishing names of companies that are unsafe is not a new idea.
The Yukon already does this with businesses that sell cigarettes, he said.
“When a retail outlet sells a package of cigarettes to someone who is underage, they lose the ability to sell tobacco products for a certain period of time and they have to publish a notification in the paper.”
The public should have the opportunity to know what companies have poor safety records year after year, said Liberal leader Arthur Mitchell.
“Why would the board not consider looking at employers who are, so to speak, the repeat offenders?” asked Mitchell on Tuesday.
Employers who, over a longer period of time, repeatedly exceed their industry category average cannot be seen as a statistical anomaly, he said.
Naming companies with poor safety records is not the best idea, said Liberal MLA Don Inverarity.
Instead, the names of companies with good safety records should be made public, he said.
“Would the Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board entertain the idea of publishing the names of Yukon employers that have excellent safety records?
“They could publish a list of maybe the top 10 or top 500 so that people know who the good employers are and do it from a top down perspective. It might be a positive goal.”
Employees also have an obligation to help make workplaces safe, added Inverarity.
Tuton has now shifted his position on this issue.
The board will consider naming companies with poor safety records, he said.
The company hasn’t taken that action so far because it was trying to be proactive in working with companies.
But, if injury levels and assessment rates continue to rise, the board would consider many options, including naming names, said Tuton.
“I said fairly clearly at one of our last media opportunities that you can only go so far with some employers, and if they refuse to follow the program and to try to provide a safer and healthier workplace, then obviously we’re going to look at other ways to deal with that employer.
“(Naming names) is definitely is an option, but a better option is for us as a board to provide the resources needed to help educate all employers, to help educate employers to better provide for their employees safer and healthier workplaces.”