HALIFAX, April 22, 2005 – With a unique design reflective of its new safety focus, the Workers’ Compensation Board of Nova Scotia’s 2004 Annual Report, Caution: Work Safe. For Life, highlights how the WCB is encouraging Nova Scotians to create a workplace safety culture; providing benefits for injured workers with chronic pain; and continuing to focus on stakeholder consultation.
All things being equal, Nova Scotia has one of the highest workplace injury rates in Canada. Last year, 34,166 workers – more than 90 a day – were injured on the job. Of these, 9,298 injuries were serious enough to require the worker to miss time from work.
As a leader in workplace safety, the WCB is developing three new safety programs for employers. Through the Safety Incentive Program, the WCB proposed changes to how an employer’s premiums are calculated in order to encourage employers to embrace a safety culture. The second program addresses the fact that a relatively small number of employers account for a large portion of workers’ compensation system costs. These are employers that have too many injuries or frequent severe injuries. The WCB will be working directly with these employers to help them improve their safety record through the Priority Employers Program. The WCB is also partnering with the Occupational Health and Safety Division of Nova Scotia Environment and Labour to provide employers with information about their individual accounts on-line. Employers can use this information to improve safety and return to work success in their operations.
“Last year, 27 Nova Scotians died on the job. The human and economic cost of workplace injuries is simply not acceptable in this day and age. To reduce the number of injuries, we all need to participate in changing the safety culture in Nova Scotia,” said Nancy MacCready-Williams, Chief Executive Officer.
Working in partnership with employers is a big part of the equation, but a significant shift in attitudes about safety is needed among all Nova Scotians. To help bring about this attitude change, in 2004 the WCB launched an emotional and hard-hitting social marketing campaign to raise awareness of workplace safety as a top-of-mind issue for Nova Scotians.
The WCB’s work to address the Supreme Court of Canada decision on chronic pain continued in 2004. The Government of Nova Scotia enacted new chronic pain regulations in July and these were followed by new WCB policies in September. By November, the WCB began to issue payments to injured workers with chronic pain.
In 2004, the WCB received $223.7 million in assessment revenue, paid out $136.7 million in claims costs and, at year’s end, the WCB’s unfunded liability was $405.5 million.
Despite increased claims costs, the WCB’s unfunded liability at the end of 2004 was 72.4% up from 67.2% in 2003. The WCB attributes this increase primarily to a change in investment accounting policy. As required by Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, the WCB now reports investment gains and losses in the year in which they occur, rather than spreading them out over five years. This change increases the impact of volatile markets on the WCB.
The Workers’ Compensation Board provides workplace injury prevention and education to all Nova Scotia employers and workers; and workplace injury insurance to over 18,000 employers and approximately 300,000 workers in Nova Scotia.
Copies of the 2004 Annual Report are available by visiting www.wcb.ns.ca, or by calling (902) 491-8100.