WCB Nova Scotia takes rate action to help to improve workplace safety records

Poor performers receive surcharge warning notices

HALIFAX, Aug. 30, 2005 – The Workers’ Compensation Board of Nova Scotia (WCB) today mailed the 2006 experience rating package to 18,000 employers covered by workplace injury insurance. Among these employers, 264 will receive a surcharge warning notice, which is part of the WCB’s latest strategic initiative to help employers embrace a workplace safety culture in Nova Scotia.

Earlier this year, the WCB released a discussion paper entitled Workers’ Compensation in Nova Scotia – A New Direction. The paper suggests if more companies prevented workplace injuries and ensured injured employees return to work in a safe and timely manner, significant cost savings could be realized in the coming years. The savings would be used to improve the system for both employees and employers. As this paper also makes clear, if these savings don’t materialize, employers will face increasing premiums in the coming years.

With this goal in mind, the WCB is introducing the Safety Incentive Program. The principle of the program is simple: companies that improve their safety records will see their WCB rates go down faster, while those with the poorest records relative to their industry peers will face surcharges that will increase annually unless they take action to improve their safety performance. Companies whose cost experience is consistently at least 200 per cent worse than their peers will receive two warnings giving them time to improve their safety performance before they are assessed the surcharge. The annual surcharges come into effect in 2008.

“Our focus on creating a safety culture in Nova Scotia is driven by the desire to reduce the human and financial toll of workplace injuries. The WCB is only part of the solution,” said WCB CEO Nancy-MacCready Williams. “It is up to every employer to do their part to ensure their employees go home safe and secure when the workday is done and to help injured employees return to work as soon and as safely as possible. By notifying employers of the potential surcharges they could face we want to get their attention and encourage them to take steps to improve their safety performance.”

The Nova Scotia forestry industry has proven this theory. Through a strong commitment to safe work environments and preventing injuries, WCB assessment rates for the forestry industry have gone down 40 per cent over the last five years resulting in $4 million savings for forestry employers.

“About eight years ago, the Forest Products Association of Nova Scotia, the leaders in our industry, realized the human and economic toll of workplace injuries was getting out of hand and that something needed to be done,” said Tommy Harper, Manager of the Forestry Safety Society of Nova Scotia. “We had safety guidelines in place and then established the Society to deliver training programs to ensure safe work environments. With the encouragement from some of the big players in the industry more members began to see the benefits. Our employers responded well, and given these new rates, it looks like our efforts have been successful.”

In addition to the Safety Incentive Program, the WCB is developing a number of new injury prevention initiatives to help employers and employees create safe workplaces, including injury prevention and coaching services for high-risk employers, revamping our return to work process in 2006 and making more WCB information available on-line.

A copy of the discussion paper Workers’ Compensation in Nova Scotia – A New Direction can be accessed at http://www.wcb.ns.ca/new/prevention.php?id=232.

The Workers’ Compensation Board of Nova Scotia promotes workplace injury prevention and provides comprehensive workplace injury insurance to employers and workers in Nova