Injury rates hit employers in the wallet

Following another rate-hike, the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce is calling for an end to the Yukon Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety…

Following another rate-hike, the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce is calling for an end to the Yukon Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board.

Skyrocketing assessment rates are making it harder for employers to do business, said Rick Karp, the chamber’s president.

“The average went up by 11 per cent. I was expecting the rates to stay the same, or to go down marginally.

“Several businesses are paying $3.30 for every $100 of payroll. In BC it’s, like, 56 cents.

“Perhaps it’s time for the Yukon to merge with Alberta’s or BC’s system.”

Other measures, not just a rise in assessment rates, should be employed by the compensation board, he added.

Workers’ compensation assessment rates are like insurance-type premiums paid by employers that cover medical and other costs for their employees in case of injury.

Karp’s comments follow an announcement by board chair Craig Tuton that assessment rates paid by the majority of business owners are going up in 2008.

“There are 52 industry groups, and 13 of those groups are going to see their rates drop,” said Tuton.

“The other 39 groups are going to see an increase.”

The majority of industry groups had to have their rates bumped because the costs of treating injured workers was exceeding the amount of assessment rate money being collected by the board, said Tuton.

Three industry groups — exploration, placer mining and diamond drilling — were moved into a higher risk category due to the rapid growth in mining and the hiring of inexperienced workers, he added.

The compensation board will not be naming the companies with poorest safety records, but planned to work with them in an effort to lower the territory’s injury rate, said Tuton.

The Yukon’s average assessment rate is rising from $2.64 per $100 of payroll in 2007 to the 2008 average of $2.94, said Mark Hill, the director of social marketing for the workers’ compensation board.

“The average assessment rate is now $2.94. That makes it the highest rate in Canada; that’s quite unfortunate.”

Employers started paying a lot more in assessment rates last year when the board removed subsidies, some as high as 25 per cent, that were used to reduce the amount of money being paid into the system by employers.

The new costs more accurately reflect what injuries are costing the system, said Hill.

The board was also going to start levying fines because employers are extremely tardy in filing their injury reports, averaging 40 days instead of the required three.

Employers who are late filing their injury reports will be charged $100 on the first day they are late. The fine will increase $25 for each additional day to a maximum of $500.

The Yukon Federation of Labour stands behind the board and disagrees with the chamber’s position, said Doug Rody, its director of policy and planning.

Having employers take an average of 40 days to file their injury reports is very surprising, said Rody.

And, having Karp look for another way to lower assessment rates, other than encouraging his members to get safer, shows the chamber president doesn’t understand the system, he said.

“It lets me know that Mr. Karp just doesn’t get it,” said Rody.

“It’s not the board that’s costing us anything, it’s the employers.

“The costs of claims have to be covered, and if it takes that kind of increase, then that’s what it takes.”

The highest rate increase, 27 per cent, was seen by the diamond drilling industry, which saw rates jump from $6.31 per $100 of payroll to $8.60, according to the workers’ compensation board.

Exploration and placer mining saw rates jump 12 per cent, to $4.76.

Lumberyards, carpenters and machine shops saw rates go up by seven per cent, to $2.09 per $100 of payroll.

 Industries involved in concrete construction, plumbing, excavation and other trades saw rates go up by 11 per cent, to $5.23.

Restaurants and retailers jumped by eight per cent, to $2.20, and hotels and wilderness tour operators jumped by nine per cent, to $3.30 per $100 of payroll, according to the board.

Industries that have seen a rate drop include farmers, surveyors and metal miners, who saw their rates drop by 14 per cent, to $3.61, and water-well drillers, air services and outfitters who saw their rates drop by 14 per cent, to $5.42.

Long-haul truckers, oil and gas drillers and sawmills also saw rates go down to $11.73, a drop of four per cent.