WCB lowers assessment rates for fifth consecutive year

One worker was killed and 25 permanently injured in the Yukon last year, according to the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board's 2012 annual report.

One worker was killed and 25 permanently injured in the Yukon last year, according to the Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board’s 2012 annual report.

In 2011, there were four workers killed and 20 permanently hurt, the report says.

The report delivered on Thursday shows a slight decrease in the total number of accepted injury claims, down to 1,049 from 2011’s 1,115.

“These numbers are lower than 2011, but still too high,” said Vicki Hancock, the WCB’s alternate chair.

“Despite this, we do see a culture of safety growing in the territory. There are now 114 Yukon businesses with a certificate of recognition, up from 97 the year before. Our producing hard rock mines have certified mine rescue teams trained and in place, we brought in new modern minimum first aid regulations and we continued with strong return to work initiatives. We need to keep moving in this direction,” Hancock said.

The WCB had a strong financial showing last year, which will allow it to lower the average claim assessment rate for 2014 to $2.18, down from $2.34 this year.

It is the fifth-straight year that the assessment rate has declined.

“Parts of the assessment rate equation are beyond our control,” Hancock said.

“How the Yukon economy is doing, and how bond and equity markets are doing play an important role in determining the rates,” she said.

“You need to know that rates are unlikely to go lower … unless we all do better at preventing workplace injuries, and reporting injuries when they occur and at accommodating injured workers so they can resume pre-injury jobs and lives sooner, employers may now be looking at the lowest average assessment rate they are going to see. Medical costs and lost-time wage costs are beyond our control, and both continue to climb. As costs go, so go assessment rates,” Hancock said.

She said the WCB will continue to help keep rates low by processing claims promptly and making sure workers get the treatment they need and get back to work as quickly as possible.

She urged employers to work towards filing claims quickly and correctly. The Yukon Chamber of Commerce has an employer advisor, who can help employers with questions or concerns about filing their paperwork.

In 2012, Yukon employers paid about $400,000 in penalties for late or missing paperwork.

“One of his goals is to help Yukon employers stop paying unnecessary penalties for late filing, late injury reporting or other missing requirements,” Hancock said.

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