By Luc Erjavec, Restaurants Canada’s Atlantic Vice-President

(June 14/17) Over the past two years, I’ve had the privilege of serving as an employer representative on the Board of Directors of the Nova Scotia Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB). Let me share a brief update on some of the major activities at the WCB.

Injury rate

  • Workplace injury in Nova Scotia reached a historic low in 2016. There were 5,847 time-loss claims, compared to 6,014 the previous year. The province’s workplace injury rate dropped to 1.74, the lowest it’s ever been.
  • Time-loss injuries in Nova Scotia have been improving every year, dropping from 9,046 to 5,847 over the past decade. During that same period, days lost from workplace injury have reduced by 300,000.

 

Funding strategy

  • The legacy of workplace injury has created an imbalance between assets in the system, and benefits owed to workers and their families. The WCB funding ratio was less than 30% in the early ‘90s, and today, our funding ratio is over 80%. This is the result of injuries prevented, improved return-to-work outcomes, and positive investment returns over the years.
  • Part of the rate WCB-covered employers pay is specifically allocated to the unfunded liability. It’s one of the reasons employer rates remain among the highest in Canada.
  • There has been progress, but we aren’t there yet. We need to stay the course. Achieving financial sustainability is a key pillar of the WCB strategic plan. Currently, the funding strategy aims to remove the unfunded liability between 2022 and 2024.
 

Online channels

  • In early June, the WCB is introducing online channels for service providers and workers, and will enhance its employer MyAccount channel. The new/enhanced channels will make it easier and faster for employers, service providers and injured workers to communicate and work with the WCB.
  • For several years, employers have been able to work with the WCB through MyAccount. This enhancement means they’ll also be able to send secure messages. Businesses can now communicate with the WCB about a claim by secure message, whenever it works for them. Previously, privacy concerns prevented email discussions of claims, so conversations were restricted to fax or telephone calls.
  • For employers supporting workers on their return-to-work, WCB has also added asked-for features to notify accounts that have claims access, of changes in claim status or a case worker.
  • For the first time, injured workers will have access to claim information electronically and be able to communicate securely with the WCB. This vastly improves convenience and saves on administrative costs.

 

Modernization

  • The WCB is in the middle of a major business transformation that will make the organization more efficient and easier to do business with. It’s a major investment, because many of the current IT systems are 25 years old and reaching their end of life. The new systems and processes associated are needed for the WCB to serve Nova Scotia’s workers and employers in an efficient and cost-effective manner.
  • Overall, the transformation will mean a more efficient, modernized WCB. Employers will get more data about injury trends and better assessment information, and spend less time chasing paper. Workers will get real-time access to their own claims information, and a streamlined claims process overall that’s faster and more consistent. Service providers like physiotherapists will get quicker approvals and payments. The WCB will get better information to track, monitor and manage progress on injured worker claims, allowing it to continue to reduce the impact of workplace injury.

 

Centralized surgeries

  • Long wait times for specialist consultations and surgeries were a major impediment to injured workers returning to work. The Centralized Surgical Services Program uses available operating time to reduce how long injured workers wait for consultations and surgeries.
  • This program is significantly reducing surgical wait times, helping workers return to work more quickly. In 2016, it’s estimated the program saved about 46,000 days waiting for consultations, and 40,000 days waiting for surgery – for a total of 235 years not spent waiting for surgeries or consultations.

 

Other cost-saving initiatives

  • A new Drug Formulary that’s more aligned with best practice for opioids has realized annual savings of over $1 million.
  • Strategic sourcing of Tier 2 and Tier 3 physio services has saved $900,000 annually.
  • The recent strategic sourcing of Audiology is expected to realize substantial annual savings.

 

Health care action plan

  • Over 30% of all claims in the system relate to workplace injuries in the Health and Social Service sector, accounting for $62 million in claims costs in 2016. Improving safety outcomes in publicly-funded long-term care, home care, and community services is a priority for WCB.

 

Office of the Employer Advisor (OEA)

  • Funding for the OEA is renewed for another three years. This employer focus resource aims to help employers with WCB and occupational safety issues.

 

Useful safety resources

Small Business Safety Toolkit   

The Small Business Safety Toolkit sets out what business owners need to know about Workplace Safety in Nova Scotia. Developed with input from small- and medium-sized businesses, it’s a comprehensive guide to safety. It’s also concise enough to fit your busy schedule, and mobile-responsive so you can review it wherever you are.

The Small Business Safety Toolkit will help you:

  • put a health and safety system in place to protect your workers and yourself from injury and illness at work;
  • learn your basic duties and responsibilities under the Nova Scotia Occupational Health and Safety Act and Regulations; and
  • understand how health and safety plays an important role in the day-to-day operation of your business.

 

worksafeforlife.ca

Nova Scotia’s workplace safety awareness and education website, worksafeforlife.ca, is now mobile-responsive, with new tools to help workplaces assess their safety culture. Visit worksafeforlife.ca and take a quick quiz to determine what resources would help your business. The site also houses other resources, including:

 

Working to Well

The Working to Well program provides information to help you and your employee through a workplace injury. It outlines resources for employers and workers in return-to-work, and helps everyone understand their role.

 

If you have a workers’ compensation question or concern, please don’t hesitate to contact me at lerjavec@restaurantscanada.org.

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