Canadian Contractor

Steve Payne   

WSIB denies OFL claim that it paid safety rebates to firms convicted of safety violations

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The WSIB, accused of paying safety rebates - totalling in the millions - to safety violating firms, has defended itself in this press release

The Toronto Star published a front page story on Monday that claimed Ontario’s WSIB paid millions of dollars in safety rebates to firms who had been convicted of safety violation offences under the Occupational Health & Safety Act.  The story was largely based on a report released by the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL). Alec Caldwell, our columnist, wrote an editorial on the topic, wondering why the WSIB would spend millions of dollars in this way, especially in light of the WSIB’s well-publicized unfunded liability (debt).

The WSIB wasn’t long in responding to the Star article, and in fact, has categorically denied most – if not all – of the OFL’s claims. Neither the Toronto Star nor the OFL have, at time of writing, reaffirmed their allegations, or restated them. So we think we should show you the WSIB’s defence of itself here.

WSIB Response to OFL Report
TORONTO, November 24, 2014 – This morning, the Ontario Federation of Labour released a report identifying a number of employers who allegedly received rebates from the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) after being convicted of offences under the Occupational Health & Safety Act. This report was also profiled in a front-page story in the Toronto Star.

The report and its conclusions are incorrect as the researchers failed to validate the information with the WSIB, and have inaccurately stated that numerous rebates were paid to employers when in fact, they were not. Unfortunately, the report was not shared with the WSIB in advance. The WSIB was contacted by the Toronto Star late last week for comment on the report, and at that time, we advised that the examples provided contained numerous inaccuracies.

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Inaccurate and misleading information
The OFL report profiles seven examples of fatalities in the workplace. In each of these examples, charges were laid under the Occupational Health & Safety Act, resulting in convictions of and fines to the employers. However, in four of these examples, the report inaccurately states that rebates ranging from $675,000 to $2.7 million were paid to these employers. In fact, all four of these rebates were cancelled under the WSIB’s Fatal Claims Adjustment Policy, and were never paid out. In two remaining examples, the report appears to have misidentified the appropriate employer in each case. In these two cases, no rebates were paid to the correct employer. In the final example, the employer was not eligible for a rebate in the year the fatality occurred.

In fact, in addition to the $1.1 billion in employer premium surcharges collected since 2009, the WSIB has applied the Fatal Claims Adjustment Policy in numerous cases, resulting in the cancellation of $10.9 million in premium rebates since 2009, with a further $4 million in rebates still pending review under this policy.

Commitment to health and safety
We should all be proud of the fact that Ontario has the safest workplaces in Canada. Lost time claims fell to 41,500 in 2013, down from 62,000 in 2008, a drop of 33 per cent. These improvements are thanks to a number of factors, including tremendous strides that have been made in strengthening prevention and health and safety awareness by worker and employer groups, agencies like ours, and the Ministry of Labour.

The WSIB’s modernization of programs helps injured workers receive faster access to specialized medical care and supports, and our new approaches to workplace reintegration for injured workers help reduce the risk of the onset of permanent impairments. These changes have a tremendous impact on making Ontario’s workplaces safer.

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