A recent article in the Daily Commercial News reports that construction industry leaders are anxious for details from the new Ford government. David Frame, director of government relations for the Ontario General Contractors Association, said this year the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) will “retire” its unfunded liability. This presents a huge opportunity, he said. “We’re going to go to the government and we’re going to say here is the opportunity to take the most expensive WSIB system in the country, with the best safety results, and actually provide rates that are reflective of what the costs are,” said Frame. “There literally is $2 billion of premiums that could be returned to employers beginning next year.”
There are problems with what he says according to Marion Endicott, injured worker advocate. “In terms of facts, Ontario is not the most expensive system in the country. It appears more expensive because unlike other provinces, Ontario does not have universal coverage. This means that many of the large businesses that enjoy low rates in other provinces and bring down the average rate in those provinces, do not participate at all in the Ontario system – so Ontario looks like it’s more expensive. What has to be compared is the industry sectors and comparing industry by industry, Ontario’s rates are not expensive.”
Endicott says there is no basis to say that Ontario has the ‘best safety results’. “Safety continues to be largely measured by workers’ compensation data on accident claims and lost-time claims. With Ontario’s experience rating, many, many accidents are not reported and, as we know, many claims that should be lost-time claims are converted into no lost time.”
A recent article in Canadian Occupational Safety reports that critical injuries are up in the Ontario construction sector: 180 in 2014; 158 in 2015; and 206 in 2016. According to data from the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB), traumatic fatalities in the construction industry are up: 24 in 2014; 19 in 2015; and 23 in 2016. About 30 per cent of all work-related traumatic fatalities and occupational disease fatality claims for schedule 1 workplaces occurred in the construction sector, yet the sector comprises only 6.7 per cent of all provincial employment.
Worker advocates maintain that declining WSIB claim rates are due to claims suppression and not health and safety improvements. Workplace injuries of all kinds are increasing, says Endicott, employers are able to hide the minor injuries but not the deaths and critical injuries.
In the last election, many permanently injured workers looked for help from Doug Ford because they have struggled for years through hard times while they battled injustice in the huge bureaucracy of our WSIB. They are also anxious to find out whether Doug Ford’s workers’ compensation board is going to help injured workers or their former employers.