Although 2011 was the ninth straight year that the province saw a decline in time-loss injuries, the overall injury rate has gone up, according to the Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation Board (http://www.wcbsask.com/WCBPortalWeb/appmanager/WCBPortalWeb/WCBPortalWeb).
The province’s time-loss injury rate (the rate of injured workers not able to return to their next regularly scheduled day of work) dropped from 5.2 per cent to 3.05 per cent of the total workforce. Phillip Germain, the executive director of prevention at the WCB, says that this is in part due to an increase in employers using workers for a “modified duty.”
“If you’ve hurt your back and you’re a welder,” says Germain, “they may have you doing something different, that doesn’t continue to hurt your back. You can stay in the workplace, heal properly and safely but still contribute to the work that’s being done within the workplace.”
But while the time-loss injury rate as improved from 2010, the total injury rate did not. It rose to 8.73 per cent from 8.70.
The industry with the highest number of injuries is health care, including positions such as nurses, nurses aids and support services such as cleaning staff. Many of the injuries are ergonomic, meaning back problems are a common complaint.
The two industries that saw a significant increase in claims were commercial construction and trucking. “A lot more industries experienced a lot more employment,” says Germain, “and trucking and construction are examples.”
But when the WCB looked for the reasons behind the increase in the total injury rates, the answer came from a surprising source.
“When we looked at why the total injury rate went up,” says Germain, “and not just the volume of claims but the injury rate, it was primarily associated with the manufacturing industry.” When the WCB took a look at the data, they found that the number of claims coming from manufacturing outpaced the number of new employees.
One of the reasons Germain points to for this increase in injuries, which are also mainly ergonomic, is a lack of conscientious design in the work stations, that allow people to work effectively for long periods of time.
“It’s a matter of going in and assessing how that work gets done and trying to adjust it so that the person can work more efficiently.”
One overall consequence to the increase in injuries is a spike in the cost of insurance. “The higher the number of claims, the higher the insurance costs are going to be,” says Germain.