New year, new sign, fewer injuries

Though 1,936 workers were injured on the job, the Yukon Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board is focusing on the 24 who weren’t.

Though 1,936 workers were injured on the job, the Yukon Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board is focusing on the 24 who weren’t.

That’s the Yukon’s net improvement over last year.

For the first time in six years, fewer workers have been hurt on the job, the board reported at its annual “resetting of the injuries sign” news conference.

In 2007, a staggering 1,960 people were hurt on the job.

This year’s 24 fewer injuries is an achievement given the Yukon’s workforce increased by 600 in 2008, noted Frank Fry, public relations liaison for the board, sitting in a boardroom housed within the ultra-safe WCB building.

Innumerable reinforcements and cross beams make the building impervious to earthquakes. Would-be fires are met with a full sprinkler system. Thick glass in the front entrance protects employees from disgruntled workers looking to settle their claims “the old fashioned way,” said board president Valerie Royle.

Still, even a loose rug could end a career, said Royle, pointing to a small carpet nestled below a staff kitchen sink.

“While this marks an improvement, there is still obviously a long way to go,” said a release issued by the board.

People’s “upper extremities” suffered the most abuse in workplace injuries in 2008, closely followed by their “trunk.”

Construction remains one of the riskiest jobs, but stupid decisions also ran up the numbers.

“Teachers on field trips on Krazy Carpets,” noted Royle. “People would think, ‘Oh, that’s something you do everyday, there’s no safety hazard,’ but we’ve had some very serious injuries in those instances,” she said.

The inaugural first injury of 2009 was a slip and fall, said Fry.

Slip-related injuries remain the No. 1 cause of injuries among Yukon workers.

“I don’t get it; people don’t wear the right footwear, sand isn’t put down — it’s amazing that we live in this environment and our No. 1 cause of injury — every year — is slips, trips and falls,” said Royle.

“You wouldn’t believe the number of people I see outside in sneakers; sneakers are lousy on ice; you’d be better off wearing a pair of heels, at least you’d have a chance to dig in,” she said.

The injuries sign was first installed a few years ago to educate people about the number of Yukon workplace injuries. At first, many mistakenly believed that it represented injuries for the whole of Canada, said Royle.

The role of drugs and alcohol in causing work-related injuries is acknowledged as a problem by board officials, but it is often hard to prove whether specific injuries were caused by impairment.

The Yukon’s labour shortage can cause employers to hesitate before sending home an employee who is drunk or stoned, said Royle.

“If we fire them, we won’t be able to get a replacement,” is a lament often heard by the board.

“But you’d be better off having nobody working than someone who’s intoxicated,” said Royle.

The ongoing cold spell has caused ice to form inside the sign, threatening its delicate electronics.

“We’re not going to get anybody to fix it because it’s too dangerous,” said Royle.

Contact Tristin Hopper at