Dangerous employer list is tough to compile

While Nova Scotia’s Workers’ Compensation Board releases the names of employers with the most workplace injuries, the Yukon’s board…

While Nova Scotia’s Workers’ Compensation Board releases the names of employers with the most workplace injuries, the Yukon’s board says its impossible to do the same here.

“We don’t have solid information on how many man hours and so we can’t do a statistically valid list of the worst offenders,” said the board’s president and CEO Valerie Royle.

Without being able to measure the number of employees or the number of man hours in relation to the claims costs, a list of worst offenders wouldn’t be fair, said Royle.

“The biggest employer will likely have larger claims costs,” said Royle.

“More information is needed to know what the worst employer would mean,” she said.

And even if such information were available, it’s not clear that high costs would mean a bad safety record.

“(A company) could have two claims or they could have 2,000 claims,” she said.

“Cost is a bit of a misnomer.”

The problem has also popped up in Nova Scotia. The retailer Sobeys was third on the worker-injury list with 556 claims in 2007 and claims costs totalling $497,582.

The company replied that it was the largest private-sector employer in the province.

“It’s directly proportionate to the number of employees,” Sobeys spokeswoman Jill Thomas Myrick told the Chronicle Herald.

The Cape Breton district health authority topped the list with 874 claims and $509,204 in costs last year.

It, too, argued that it was the biggest employer and that the severity of the injuries are getting less and less intense.

“To characterize them as the worst employers is not necessarily appropriate, because in order to get on the list of the top 25, you look purely at the number of claims,” compensation board spokeswoman Mary Kingston told the Halifax Herald.

“It wasn’t a ratio compared to anything. It was just hard numbers,” she said.

The number of claims are deceptive if you don’t factor in how long a worker missed work, she told the Halifax daily.

If there is repetitive abuse, the company is likely breaching occupational health and safety regulations which can be penalized with fines or the closing of a company, said Royle.

“We look at the trends,” she said. “We’re so small, the outliers jump out right at you.”

The small size of the Yukon’s work force doesn’t make public disclosure necessary, said Alex Furlong, president of the Yukon Federation of Labour.

“We’re in a small jurisdiction,” said Furlong. “Word gets around about who is safe and not.”

And employees should he held to the same standards as employers.

“If you start to publish employers, doesn’t an employer have a right to know which employees are more accident prone?” said Furlong.

Training and education are more effective and the board is on the right track, said Furlong.

“I fully support what the board is doing,” he said.

But not everyone is satisfied.

“I do believe that (the names of companies) should be publicized,” said Todd Hardy, leader of the Yukon New Democratic Party.

“No company wants to be known as having the worst record,” he said, “And as they lower their rate of injuries, of course it would lower their costs.”

Hardy use to run a construction company.

“If I was still running a business, I’d still support it,” he said.

The board should also be praising the companies with good records, he said.

“It should be public information. I don’t know why we have to be secretive about it.”

“They’re posting the accident rate out there on the street, let’s post the worst out there on the street,” he said.

Hardy recalled a conversation he had recently with a friend who developed back injuries from work. The worker requires morphine everyday, said Hardy.

“He was saying, I don’t want to live very long,” said Hardy.

“The injury of this worker far outweighs the feelings of a company.”

Contact James Munson at