Worker deaths too high: WCB

“We’ve had three deaths in 2013 and to date in 2014 we’ve had four,” said Mark Pike, chairman of the Yukon Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board.

If current trends continue, 2014 could well be the deadliest year on record for Yukon workers.

“We’ve had three deaths in 2013 and to date in 2014 we’ve had four,” said Mark Pike, chairman of the Yukon Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board.

“As a board we’re asking ourselves what do we need to do better? If that trend was to continue, and we’ll pray to God it doesn’t, we would likely set a record for workplace deaths in a single year,” he said.

Pike offered these comments during the release of the board’s annual report, which announced the organization’s financial standings and average assessment rate for 2015.

On the financial side, the news was all positive.

The organization has an accumulated surplus of $14 million, up $5.5 million over last year, Pike said.

“This success is due to a large degree to the returns on investments from 2013. The investment return was almost double what it was in 2012,” Pike said.

He cautioned that given the volatility of global market “we need to be aware that can’t be achieved every year. We need to be prepared for that,” but even so “the success of the past several years has left our organization in a good position to weather any storms that do arise.”

Yukon businesses covered by the board will pay an average assessment rate of $1.90 per $100 of payroll, Pike said. That represents a significant drop in the past five years, down from more than $3 per $100 of payroll in 2009.

There were slightly fewer workers covered this year than last, and accepted claims were down as well to 974 from 1,063. The number of overall claims filed is down 228 from last year, though hearing officer reviews of claims nearly doubled, from 27 to 53.

Injury costs have risen this year, Pike said, in part because of changes to things like presumptive cancer legislation for firefighters.

In total, the total compensation fund sits at $202 million, up from $174 million last year, said Joy Waters, the board’s CEO.

“This means there is more than enough money to cover our current and future costs,” she said.

“All of this is good news, but there are also some troubling trends … seven deaths in 17 months is far too many for a jurisdiction of our size,” she said.

“I implore all of us to better identify hazards, and remain conscious of using the proper equipment. Do everything we can to look out for ourselves and each other,” Pike said.

Contact Jesse Winter at jessew@yukon-news.com

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