September 2009


WSIB Freezes 2010 Premium Rates for Good Performers
But 36,000 employers with poor performance can expect increases

On July 27 , Steve Mahoney, Chair of the WSIB, told employers that for 2010, the WSIB intends to use the same method for setting premium rates as used in previous years, but with one important change.

That change will affect the overwhelming majority of employers--over 200,000, or 85%--whose collective performance reflects their investment in health and safety. The firms in rate groups that keep their injury rates down and their claim durations short, will not face additional premium costs during these tough economic times: their rates will be frozen for 2010. In addition, they will continue to be eligible for rebates under the WSIB's incentive-based programs.

It's a different story for the relatively small number of employers (approximately 36,000) in rate groups that have not maintained or improved their overall health and safety performance. These organizations can expect premium rate increases in 2010, and possibly surcharges and penalties as well. As in previous years, the WSIB will primarily look at claims costs and injury frequency to calculate the premium increases.

The WSIB's method for setting premium rates provides those 36,000 employers that are in rate groups with poor safety records, with an irresistible opportunity to improve their financial position in a difficult economic climate. By implementing a health and safety program that prevents injuries and saves lives, they can save real dollars on their bottom line regardless of their revenue and profit margins.

What about 2011 and beyond?
Costs of running the WSIB have been affected by increases to benefits, declining investment returns and the global financial crisis.

Given these realities, Mahoney makes no promises about holding the line on premium increases in the future: "We are doing all we can in these difficult economic times to avoid placing undue financial burdens on employers," he says. "At the same time, we give fair warning that if the WSIB's economic situation does not improve, we will have to consider introducing premium rate increases in the future."

What employers can do
The WSIB sets premium rates based on the claims experience of all employers in a rate group. Premium rates are based on the cost and frequency of claims in that rate group. The way forward for employers with performance gaps is clear: make your workplace safer and develop an early and safe return-to-work program.

But what about employers with excellent health and safety records who have the bad luck of belonging to a poor-performing rate group? Those organizations will be rewarded with rebates on their premiums paid under experience rating. If you belong in this group, you also can:

  • Work with your trade associations, other community organizations and OSSA to actively promote effective health and safety among other workplaces in your rate group; for example, consider joining an OSSA Safety Group;
  • Apply for additional performance rebates under the WSIB's incentive-based experience rating programs (which are currently being redesigned and improved);
  • Above all, continue investing in health and safety: your results help hold the line on premium rate increases in the future.

Heads Up: MOL Changes its Enforcement Blitz Schedule
Inspectors zero in on slips, trips and falls this November

The Ministry of Labour (MOL) has changed the dates and targets of its upcoming hazard blitzes. Here is the new schedule.

New MOL hazard blitz schedule

MOL inspectors issue orders or tickets based on what they see or do not see: they are looking for evidence that the employer has assessed the risks and taken reasonable actions to protect employees. The best strategy is preparation.

Call OSSA Client Services at 1-888-478-6772 for guidance and assistance.

Give Winter the Slip, Not Employees
Are you ready for the MOL's slips, trips and falls enforcement blitz this November?

In Canada, some 60,000 workers are injured annually due to falls. That represents about 15% of the lost-time injuries accepted by workers' compensation boards or commissions across the country. In addition to it being a great economic loss, slips, trips and falls account for a great deal of pain and suffering, and sometimes even death. It doesn't have to happen, and in November, MOL inspectors will be knocking on doors to find out how you're managing this ubiquitous hazard.

Eliminating slips, trips and falls depends on:

  • Understanding how they happen;
  • Identifying the trouble areas; and,
  • Eliminating or minimizing the hazards.

How do people fall
Falls happen in two ways: 60% result from slips and trips, and the remaining 40% from a height. This edition of the Advocate addresses falls that result from slips and trips.

What causes slips and trips
Slips happen where there is too little friction or traction between the footwear and the walking surface. Common causes of slips include wet or oil surfaces, and loose rugs or mats.

Trips, on the other hand, happen when your foot collides, strikes or hits an object, causing you to lose balance, and eventually fall. Common causes of tripping are an obstructed view, poor lighting, clutter, and uneven walking surfaces.

Being in a hurry, especially in congested spaces during peak work flow times, contributes to both slips and trips--especially when you add wet surfaces or other hazards to the mix.

Four ways to prevent slips and trips
Both slips and trips result from unintended or unexpected changes between the feet and the ground or walking surface. Good housekeeping, the quality of walking surfaces (flooring), selection of proper footwear and the effective design of work are critical factors for preventing falls.

  • Housekeeping: Good housekeeping includes cleaning all spills immediately; removing obstacles from walkways; and keeping working areas and walkways well lit. Without good housekeeping practices, other preventive measures, such as installation of engineered flooring, specialty footwear or training on techniques of walking and safe falling, will never be fully effective.
  • Flooring: Changing or modifying walking surfaces involves recoating or replacing floors; installing mats, pressure-sensitive abrasive strips or abrasive-filled, paint-on coating; and installing metal or synthetic decking.
  • Footwear: Focus on selecting proper footwear. However, since there is no footwear with anti-slip properties for every condition, do consult with the manufacturers.
  • Work flow: Analyze the flow of work during a regular work day, especially at peak periods, and correct any instances of bottlenecks and congestion that cause employees to bump into one another.

How employers and employees can work together
Safety is everybody's business. While it is the responsibility of employers to provide a safe work environment for all employees, use your
health and safety talks to remind staff that they can improve their own safety by:

  • Taking their time (walking at an appropriate pace is a simple but effective way to prevent slips and trips) and paying attention to where they are going;
  • Adjusting their stride to a pace that is suitable for the walking surface and the tasks they are doing;
  • Walking with the feet pointed slightly outward;
  • Making wide turns at corners;
  • Always using installed light sources that provide sufficient light for the task;
  • Using a flashlight if they enter a dark room where there is no light;
  • Ensuring that the items they are carrying or pushing do not prevent them from seeing any obstructions, spills, etc.
See the full story at ossa.com.

Source: "Prevention of Slips, Trips and Falls", OSH Answers, Canadian Centre of Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS), retrieved August 2009. Reproduced with the permission of CCOHS, 2009.

Recent Ruling of Labour Relations Board Surprises Many
Firms unaware they must report critical injuries of customers, suppliers, guests

  • A customer trips on an obstacle in the aisle of a retail store and breaks an ankle.
  • A parts supplier slips in the service bay at a tire dealership and fractures his upper arm.
  • A shopper slips on spilled fruit at a grocery store, knocking herself unconscious.
  • An employee's spouse steps through the back door of a restaurant to drop something off, and is splashed with boiling oil.
  • Two customers start fighting in a nightclub, resulting in stab wounds.
These injured people aren't your employees. Do you need to report the incident to the Ministry of Labour? Indeed you do. Here's why.

Section 51 (1) of the Ontario Health and Safety Act states that an employer is obliged to report critical injuries or fatalities suffered by "a person"--not just a worker:

    51. (1) Where a person is killed or critically injured from any cause at a workplace, the constructor, if any, and the employer shall notify an inspector, and the committee, health and safety representative and trade union, if any, immediately of the occurrence by telephone, telegram or other direct means and the employer shall, within forty-eight hours after the occurrence, send to a Director a written report of the circumstances of the occurrence containing such information and particulars as the regulations prescribe.

(See also "Notices Required from Employers" on page 29 of the Guide to the Occupational Health & Safety Act.)

Many employers have overlooked this crucial point for years, choosing instead to interpret the Act as affecting workers only. Now, a recent Ontario Labour Relations Board ruling has reminded businesses, the public, and even some MOL inspectors, that the reporting obligation is clear.

The ruling applied to Blue Mountain Resorts, which had appealed an order issued by an MOL inspector to report the fatality of a guest who drowned in a swimming pool, saying the guest was not a worker and the death did not occur in a workplace. Blue Mountain appealed the order. The Ministry of Labour argued, among other things, that workers and non-workers alike encounter the same hazards and risks, and all require protection. Ultimately, the Labour Board upheld the inspector's order to report the fatality of the hotel guest.

A complicating factor
What complicates the situation for some employers is that in the event of a critical injury or fatality, certain restrictions require employers not to "interfere with, disturb, destroy, alter or carry away any wreckage, article or thing at the scene of or connected with the occurrence until permission so to do has been given by an inspector." (See section 51 (2) of the Act.) For Blue Mountain Resorts and other businesses, those restrictions could mean parts of the premises could be shut down during peak periods while they waited for a green light from inspectors.

Let's define a "critical injury"
The Act defines it as an injury of a serious nature that:
     a. Places life in jeopardy;
     b. Produces unconsciousness;
     c. Results in substantial loss of blood;
     d. Involves the fracture of a leg or arm but not a finger or toe;
     e. Involves the amputation of a leg, arm, hand or foot but not a finger or toe;
     f. Consists of burns to a major portion of the body; or,
     g. Causes the loss of sight in an eye.

What should employers do
Legal firms specializing in health and safety are busy posting updates. Here's what one in particular has to say: "In light of this decision, employers must carefully consider reporting critical injuries and fatalities involving workers or non-workers (e.g. patients, customers, guests and members of the public) alike to the Ministry of Labour or risk liability under OHSA."

OSSA's take on it: the byproduct of making your workplace safe for workers is that you will automatically have made your premises safe for all people, including customers and guests.

The repercussions of the Labour Board ruling will continue play out over time. Businesses of all types are likely to be affected. If section 51 (1) of the Act affects you and your business, contact us to discuss next steps.


How to Speak the Language of Business in a Tough Economic Climate
Use OSSA's online Calculator to assess the financial damage of workplace injuries

Did you know that you have access to a flexible and easy-to-use tool--100% confidential--that you can use to calculate the hit to your bottom line from a workplace injury? What's more, the Calculator is free--truly a tool for our times. Find out how you can put it to work for your company.

Last spring, OSSA introduced a Health and Safety Calculator on its website. Health and safety managers can log on to perform any number of useful tasks:

  • Scout out 11 injuries common to the service sector (e.g. wrist pain, hot oil burns, finger cuts, workplace violence, fractures) to see some of the surprising ways they rack up costs;
  • Adapt any of the existing 11 scenarios to make them more relevant to your organizations;
  • Start from scratch and create your own custom scenarios, using data you already have, to identify costs specific to your company;
  • Download the free resources offered that match your scenarios;
  • Estimate your best and worst-case WSIB premiums for a one-year period--including how to be eligible for WSIB rebates and avoid being a target of a Workwell audit.

How it works
The Calculator prompts you with questions. You already know most, if not all, of the data it will ask you for. Not only does it calculate the impact on your bottom line, it adds up what your company needs to makes in sales revenue to recover the cost.

So for those wanting to talk the language of business in a difficult economy, and looking for hard numbers to persuade senior managers to invest more in prevention, this is the tool for you. See the summer edition of OSSA Safety Mosaic magazine, due out in September, for:

  • More information on the Calculator (page 11);
  • The exciting ways Loblaw Companies Limited is leveraging its numbers (page 8).

100% confidential
The tool is easy to use and, similar to your online banking account, is entirely confidential. You don't have to enter your company name or number. Nobody sees your results but you. You are asked to log in simply so that if you're interrupted, you can pick up where you left off at a later time.

For more information, or for help with the Calculator, contact us.

H1N1 Virus Demands Vigilance and Preparedness
Having a plan is critical for continuing to operate effectively

According to
Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization, on July 2, 2009, "We are in phase 6--that is, we are in the early days of the 2009 influenza pandemic. As we see today, with well over 100 countries reporting cases, once a fully fit pandemic virus emerges, its further international spread is unstoppable." Many organizations already know the relief and confidence of having pandemic plans in place. It's easier than you think, especially when you've got checklists and templates at the ready--which you do. You'll find everything you need on one page, both to develop a plan, and to find up-to-date, current information about this looming crisis.


The Latest Health & Safety Violations for Service Sector Firms
Opportunities to learn from others

Every month, organizations cause untold suffering for workers, families and the community, and take an entirely preventable hit on their bottom line, as a result of violations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act. In the last few weeks, organizations pleaded guilty to violations that resulted in the deaths of at least four people in service sector jobs in Ontario, and injuries to many more.

If workers can operate one type of fork lift, does that mean they can operate all types?

Katoen Natie Canada, Sarnia, a Quebec-based logistics services provider, was fined $70,000 for a violation that resulted in a fork lift operator backing into a steel rack, trapping a leg between the truck and the racking and breaking a leg. The employer had failed to ensure the worker was certified for the machinery involved, and for ensuring the supervisor was monitoring the worker while operating the lifting device.

Tuong Phat Supermarket, Toronto, was fined $90,000 for a violation that resulted in the death of a worker. The employee was using a lifting device to move a shopping cart, when the forks tipped backwards, causing the machine to fall, fatally crushing the worker. The employer failed to provide information and written instructions, in addition to verbal instruction, for the safe operation of a lift truck.

The point is... given typical staff turnover in warehouses and supermarkets coupled with the cost of fork lift training, some employers are failing to instruct their workers, which is why the Ministry of Labour targets fork lift operations in its enforcement blitzes year after year. Operating a fork lift without the proper certification is like driving without a license. Also, employees need to be certified on the exact type of machinery they're operating; similar to vehicle vs. motorcycle licenses, certifications are not transferable from one type of fork lift to another.

If there's a violation, does the company take sole responsibility?

Durez Canada Company Limited, St. Catharines, a Toronto-based manufacturer of resins and plastics, was fined $70,000, and the company supervisor was fined $3,000, for violations that resulted when a worker stepped outside roof guardrails to perform maintenance tasks and felt 15.85 metres, landing on metal barrels and sustaining serious injuries. The employer failed to provide the worker with adequate fall protection, training and supervision. The supervisor had failed to ensure the worker used the protective devices, measures and procedures prescribed by law.

1604945 Ontario Inc., Kitchener, an owner of commercial property for rent, was fined $60,000, and a company director was fined $10,000, for a violation that resulted in workers being put in danger of asbestos inhalation. The employer failed to determine if asbestos was present and to prepare a list of all designated substances before beginning the project. The director failed to take all reasonable care to ensure the company complied with the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

The point is... more and more, we're reading about supervisors, directors, managers and others with authority and close to the situation, being fined separately for violations--in addition to fines levied against the employer. Ultimately, prevention is in the hands of people.

Are temp agencies accountable for the health and safety of workers they send out to job sites?

Neff Kitchen Manufacturers Limited, Brampton, was fined $75,000, and two supervisors at Opportunity Labour Agency Services, a Vaughan temporary help agency, were fined $10,000 each, for a violation that resulted in the death of a worker. Two Opportunity Labour workers stationed at Neff Kitchen were to unload a shipping container that Neff Kitchen had sent to another company. That company's own workers had not been allowed to unload the container because their supervisor deemed the load unsafe. One Opportunity Labour worker went inside the container alone and was cutting the banding around a stack of plywood when the bundle came apart and fell on the worker, fatally crushing him. Neff Kitchen Manufacturers Limited failed to ensure that the plywood could be removed without endangering the worker. The two Opportunity Labour supervisors failed to advise the worker of potential or actual danger when unloading the container.

The point is... some temp agencies mistakenly believe it should not be their role to train or prepare workers for the jobs they perform for the companies who hire them, since they are not fully aware of all the hazards present and are not there to constantly observe the worker. The law says otherwise. Employers are responsible for employee safety, regardless of where employees are working and/or the hazards present; for example, equipment repair technicians do all their work offsite, but their employers are still accountable for their well-being while on the road and at a customer's worksite. Temporary employees are registered to the temp agency, not the company they're performing work for. Temp agencies need to ensure workers are properly trained, and indeed are expected to pre-inspect work sites to make themselves aware of the present hazards, ensuring that they're not putting employees in harm's way.

Are firms legally required to address the recommendations of their Joint Health and Safety Committees?

Metro Ontario Inc., Kingston, was fined $55,000 for a violation that exposed workers to a crushing hazard. The dock plate bridging in the receiving area was broken, and workers were using their hands and feet to lift and lower the plate. The Joint Health and Safety Committee (JHSC) and store manager had been aware of the problem for several months. The employer was found guilty of failing to ensure the dock plate was maintained in good condition.

The point is... JHSC members perform the function of an internal auditor of the firm's health and safety program. Their role is to identify hazards and make recommendations. They cannot be held liable for injuries because they have no power to make changes in the workplace. Employers who ignore the recommendations of their JHSC are at risk of being fined. That said, if certified JHSC members are found by MOL inspectors to not be fulfilling their duties properly, their certification can be revoked.

If a firm is federally regulated, does it still have to follow provincial law?

The Wesbell Group of Technologies Inc., Burlington, a telecommunications company, was fined $200,000 for a violation that resulted in the death of two workers. The workers entered an underground vault that was short of oxygen (as low as 9%, whereas safe, breathable air requires a concentration of 18% to 21% oxygen by volume), causing them to pass out and fall into a metre of water at the bottom of the vault, where they drowned. The employer failed to ensure a written plan had been prepared and implemented to protect the workers from the dangers of entering a confined space.

The point is... there's a behind-the-scenes twist to this story. Telecommunications falls under federal law, which have different requirements for employees before going underground. Provincial regulations, however, require more stringent pre-entry assessments. Wesbell went to court to say they were federally regulated and therefore didn't have to follow provincial regulations. The courts pointed out that if two regulations exist, the one that is more stringent will apply, especially if the worksite (a construction site) is provincially regulated.

This story serves as a heads up for other industries--trucking, for example. Say a trucker transports materials over the border from Quebec to Ontario--in which case federal regulations would apply. If the Quebec trucker does something that breaks provincial regulations as it pulls into the Ontario warehouse, the organization can be charged under provincial regulations.

Ontario Service Safety Alliance
5110 Creekbank Road, Suite 500,
Client Services Line: 1.888.478.OSSA