Revealing the names of the most dangerous workplaces will not hurt a business in the longterm.
That is the opinion of Nova Scotia Supreme Court Judge Gregory Warner, who set a precedent this week by permitting the release of the province’s 25 employers with the worst worker injury records.
It didn’t take long for the debate to hit the Yukon.
“Nova Scotia’s (Workers’ Compensation Board) revealed in their annual report that 53 of the province’s 18,508 registered employers accounted for 49.66 per cent of injuries reported,” said Liberal MLA Eric Fairclough in the legislature this week.
“To put it another way, it is one-quarter of one per cent of employers who are responsible for nearly half of all accidents.”
The minister responsible for the Yukon’s Workers’ Compensation Board said the territory doesn’t need to go the same route.
“(The board) has appropriate measures in place (to curb injuries),” said Minister Glenn Hart.
Currently, the Yukon compensation board has recorded more than 1860 workplace injuries in the territory this year.
Fairclough read sections of Justice Warner’s decision in the legislature this week.
“Disclosure should encourage a workplace with a comparatively poor safety record to improve its safety record,” said Warner.
“It can only be reasonably expected to affect them in the long term if they do not respond to the serious workplace safety problems,” he wrote.
While Hart avoided arguing the judge’s decision, Fairclough drew attention to the Yukon board’s refusal to name the employers responsible for the most workplace injuries.
But, currently, forcing identification of the worst employers is not possible in the Yukon.
The Nova Scotia case was sparked by an access-to-information request from Halifax Herald Limited, the group which runs the Chronicle-Herald.
The Nova Scotia Workers’ Compensation Board refused to reveal the provinces 25 worst offenders, but eventually lost the case.
The Yukon’s Crown corporations aren’t covered by the territory’s Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act. Nova Scotia’s workers’ compensation board is covered by access-to-information law.
The Nova Scotia board refused to release information because it said that would invade the personal privacy of injured workers, reveal the financial state of a company as well as information about the company’s labour relations.
Information about injury instances are also given to the board with implicit confidentiality, it argued.
The move could also harm the company’s competitiveness, they said.
But Warner dismissed all those arguments.
By looking at previous cases, the judge found that injured workers would not be easily identifiable if the list of 25 were released.
Nor would significant information about the company’s finances or labour relations be exposed.
And, because providing the information about an injury to the board is a mandatory requirement of the workers’ compensation program, there is no reasonable expectation of confidentiality, Warner decided.
The board’s research was used against it.
A statement in the board’s 2007 Annual Report writes, “The cost of workplace injury insurance in Nova Scotia is driven, in large part, by the claims-cost experience of a relatively small number of employers.”
The compensation board could not be reached for comment before press time.
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