HALIFAX, April 15, 2004 – An increased emphasis on workplace injury prevention, a heightened focus on stakeholder consultation; improved service measures; and new benefits for injured workers with chronic pain are some of the highlights from the WCB’s 2003 Annual Report – Safety Starts With You.
Last year, the WCB received 33,674 claims from workers injured on the job. In nearly 9,000 of these cases, the injury was serious enough to require the worker to miss time from work. More than 83% of these workers received their first benefit cheques from the WCB within 15 days of their injury. Again this year, the WCB continued to improve the service provided to the province’s workers and employers. In 2003, the WCB also focused its efforts on increasing awareness of the impact of workplace injuries.
The WCB also has adopted a more consultative approach when making key decisions. First used in the development of a five-year strategic plan for the occupational health and safety and workers’ compensation system, the WCB has since consulted with stakeholders on key initiatives such as the development of a system-wide workplace injury prevention program and an appropriate new approach to benefits for injured workers with chronic pain. Through this consultative process, stakeholders identified their key priorities for the system — one of which was to put greater emphasis on the social and economic costs associated with workplace injuries. “Each and every employer and worker has a responsibility to work safely. We want to make everyone aware of the impact of workplace injuries, and provide them with the knowledge and tools they need to prevent injuries on the job,” says Louis R. Comeau, Chair.
In October 2003, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down Section 10B of the Workers’ Compensation Act and the Functional Restoration Program (FRP) Regulations. This section of the Act and the FRP Regulations determined the benefits and services certain workers receive for chronic pain. In response to this decision, Government asked the WCB to make a recommendation on a new approach to chronic pain. The WCB undertook an extensive stakeholder consultation process in developing a recommended new approach to chronic pain. As a result of this process, the WCB recommended that workers with chronic pain be assessed using a modified version of the American Medical Association (AMA) Guides, 5th Edition. Once Government reviews and decides on an appropriate approach to chronic pain, the WCB will respond accordingly.
It is estimated that providing chronic pain-related benefits using the modified version of the AMA 5th Edition Guides will result in an approximate $198 – $217 million increase to system costs as well as an approximate $11 million increase in annual claims costs.
From a financial perspective, the WCB has established a liability of approximately $168 million to pay for the potential costs of chronic pain benefits for assessed employers. This and other significant one-time events in 2003 have had an impact on the WCB’s funded percentage. At the end of 2003 the WCB was 67.2% funded, down from 73.2% in 2002.
The Workers’ Compensation Board provides comprehensive workplace injury insurance to over 18,000 employers and approximately 300,000 workers in Nova Scotia.
Copies of the 2003 Annual Report are available by visiting www.wcb.ns.ca.