New WCB inspector’s salary a big secret

A retired RCMP officer has been hired to investigate compensation claims, employers and health-care providers, the Workers’ Compensation Health…

A retired RCMP officer has been hired to investigate compensation claims, employers and health-care providers, the Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board said Tuesday.

The investigator was hired earlier this year, but hasn’t begun any investigations, said board chair Craig Tuton at the organization’s annual information meeting.

Possible investigations include false claims, health care providers who might be overcharging for services and employers who are not paying into compensation.

Tuton would not reveal how much the board is paying the investigator. Asked repeatedly at the meeting and in an interview, he only said the savings would pay for the costs.

“We’ll save a lot more than it’ll cost,” said Tuton.

He also couldn’t say how much money the board is losing annually because of false claims, overcharging or unpaid rates.

The Northwest Territories saved “millions of dollars over several years” because of its investigation unit, he added.

“It’s a prudent way to do business,” he said.

Hiding the cost of the investigation unit is wrong, especially at what’s billed as an informational meeting, said Opposition leader Arthur Mitchell.

“We don’t know whether or not (revenue loss) is an issue,” said Mitchell in an interview.

“If money is being spent, the costs should be transparent.”

The creation of the investigation unit was one of the several items the board discussed along with a financial review at the meeting.

Claims increased in 2006 from the previous year by 50, to 1,120.

The board ran an operating surplus of $3 million in 2006 after running a $7.4 million deficit in 2005.

Overall revenue in 2006 increased by $11.6 million from the previous year.

The board came “into the black on the back of employers” because of a major rate increase in 2006, said Mitchell.

Tuton wouldn’t comment on any further increases for 2008.

Employers are negatively affected by operating in a “vacuum of information,” said Mitchell.

A digital display outside the board’s offices has been tallying the number of work-related injuries and continues to surprise people, said Tuton.

“It does attract discussion and that’s what it was intended to do,” he said.

Reviewing the year to date, Tuton said some industries are reporting a drop in work-related injuries so far in 2007.

After a near doubling of injuries in 2006 from the previous year, the construction industry has seen a decline in claims this year.

“During the Canada games lead-up, we saw a significant rise in injuries but the record is improving,” said Tuton.

Improving workplace safety among teenagers has been a focus this year for the board, which believes young employees are some of the most vulnerable workers.

“They’re inexperienced or they’re eager to please their employers and they sometimes take risks we don’t want them to take,” said Tuton.

Board employees are working with education officials to see if health and safety issues can be worked into the curriculum.

Over the next year, the board would like to work on improving literacy in the work place and providing information for people who can’t read.

Safety in the trucking industry also needs to improve, said Tuton.

In 2006, the board accepted 25 claims from the long-haul trucking industry.