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Leveraging Workers’ Compensation and Health & Safety Opportunities

Submitted by Ian T. Howcroft, Vice President, Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME) Ontario. Everyone knows that health and safety is a priority issue for everyone in the workplace, as it should be.  It is tragic when an accident occurs, and therefore we must do all we can to reduce and eliminate these incidents from the workplace.  We must also look to the success in this area that we have been able to achieve in Ontario over the last 15 years.  We have seen an enormous reduction in lost time incidents, which gives us a great foundation to build on. 

We still see enormous challenges in the system, but we have also seen some significant improvements.  With reduced lost time incidents, the WSIB has been able to reduce costs and implement other changes which are starting to have a positive impact.  However, with an approximate $14 billion unfunded liability it is essential that the WSIB continue to implement and oversee reform to the system.  CME had advocated and thus supported the transfer of the Prevention Function from the WSIB to the Ministry of Labour.  The details are still being worked out, but directionally this was the right thing to do, and it allows the WSIB to focus its efforts and resources on the financial and insurance aspects of the system.   We have been calling for the government to take a holistic approach to workers’ compensation reform, and establish a Royal Commission, that could look at all aspects of the system at the same time.  Until this is done, we will continue to provide our views and comments on what we think should be done to improve the system.  We will be critical of some decisions and support others, depending on the particular issue.  For example, we have been very pleased with recent changes the WSIB made with regard to stakeholder consultations.  We have had excellent access that has allowed us to voice the interests and issues of manufacturers to the senior management. We are still waiting to see what the premiums for 2013 will be—but we do know there will be an increase.

It is important to look at another recent and positive decision that was made by the WSIB.   It dealt with the future of Safety Group Program.  CME had advocated that companies be allowed to participate fully in Safety Groups, even if they have had more than five years of involvement.  Safety Groups have proven extremely successful, and it would have been very unfortunate if this change had not been made.  Again, we need to recognize the WSIB’s responsive decision to allow for the continuation of this important tool to improve H&S.  Consequently, the Safety Group Program will continue for the 2013 calendar year.

For those that are not familiar with the safety group program, it is certainly worth a look.  CME /EAC started offering a Safety Group several years ago, and we now administer three different groups.  The benefits for those who participate are real and tangible.  It allows companies to work collaboratively, to improve health & safety, increase productivity, and reduce claims, injuries and severity rates.  Companies are able to discuss challenges and share solutions that, again, move health and safety forward.  In addition to these benefits, companies are also eligible to receive a rebate from the program, which is in addition to any other WSIB rebates that companies may be eligible for.  Last year members of the CME/EAC Safety Groups receive rebates that totaled approximately $5 million.  In these uncertain times companies must do all they can to look for solution that help them address their needs and the challenges that business must face.  We encourage all companies to look at the opportunities that Safety Groups offer.  We are just launching our promotion for the 2013 Safety Group year, which begins in January.  More information can be found at the website: www.eacforemployers.org.

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About CME – Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME) is Canada’s leading trade and industry association, and the voice of manufacturing and global business in Canada. For more information, visit www.cme-mec.ca.