Workers' Compensation Safety Board of Nova Scotia

WCB Nova Scotia reports signs of progress with fewer workplace injuries and fatalities in 2016 (June 15/17)

Annual Report released today also outlines need to address the province’s average claim duration rate

HALIFAX, NS – Workplace injury in Nova Scotia reached a historic low last year. In its 2016 Annual Report released today, WCB Nova Scotia reports 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 has been since the WCB started measuring time-loss injuries in this manner. 

“Our time-loss injury rate in Nova Scotia has been improving every year for the past decade,” says Stuart MacLean, WCB Nova Scotia CEO. “There are also thousands fewer claims than there were ten years ago, and close to 300,000 fewer days lost to workplace injury. That’s great progress, but there is still a lot more work to do.”  

The report indicates that it’s taking longer for workers who are hurt on the job to make a safe and healthy return to the workplace. In 2016, the composite duration index, a measure of how long workers are off the job due to injury, increased to 110 days. While challenges in reducing durations are not unique to Nova Scotia, the province has one of the highest claim duration rates in Canada. Durations here and across Canada are affected by a number of factors, including claim complexity, population health, and an aging workforce. 

There were two acute fatalities in 2016 – one on a construction site, and one at a sawmill. There were eight acute fatalities the previous year. There were also 18 chronic fatalities due to health problems and occupational disease in 2016, compared with 19 the previous year. 

The positive trends in commercial fishing continued in 2016. Injuries in the sector were down, and no one drowned or was lost at sea. 

Health and social services is our next major opportunity for progress. In particular, there are challenges in long-term care and home care. About nine out of every 100 home care workers and five out of every 100 nursing home workers suffers a time-loss injury on the job – primarily related to lifting and moving people. Long-term care and home care account for less than 30 per cent of the overall health care payroll, but 60 per cent of time-loss claims. 

WCB Nova Scotia is part of a multi-stakeholder group working to develop a safety action plan for health care and community services, with a focus on nursing homes and home care.

“Our 2016 results demonstrate that as a province we’ve made progress, but we continue to have challenges,” says MacLean. “With our partners, we are committed to reducing the human and financial toll of workplace injury in our province.”

WCB Nova Scotia’s ongoing modernization is a big part of how the organization will deliver on that commitment. As the organization marks 100 years of service to Nova Scotians, its comprehensive modernization includes new secure online service channels for customers. The WCB has also begun work to replace the 25-year-old systems that power claims processing and management, and employer rate assessments.

“We’re fundamentally changing how we do business,” says MacLean. “The world is changing rapidly when it comes to technology. WCB must become more modern, efficient, and relevant in supporting Nova Scotia employers and their employees.” 

WCB reported a comprehensive income of $64.2 million in 2016, moving a step closer toward eliminating the unfunded liability. Assessable payroll in Nova Scotia grew to $10.5 billion from $10.2 billion in 2015. Claims costs incurred also grew to $212.5 million compared with $204 million the previous year. 

2016 at a glance:
  • There were 5,847 time-loss claims registered in 2016, compared with 6,014 the previous year. 
  • Time-loss injuries per 100 covered workers dropped to 1.74, the lowest it has been since we started measuring time-loss injuries in this manner.
  • There were two acute workplace fatalities in 2016, compared to eight in 2015, five in 2014, 17 in 2013, and 10 in 2012.
  • There were 18 chronic fatalities in 2015, due to disease and health problems, compared to 19 in 2015, 14 in 2014, 17 in 2013, and 22 in 2012.
  • WCB Nova Scotia reported a comprehensive total income of $64.2 million in 2016. 
  • Assessable payroll in Nova Scotia grew to $10.5 billion from $10.2 billion in 2015.
  • The percentage funded ratio at year end was 84.1%, up from  80.6% in 2015.
  • Claims costs incurred increased in 2016 to $212.5 million compared with $204 million the previous year.
  • Sprains and strains remain the most common type of time-loss injury at 63.5 per cent.
  • Back injuries accounted for 28.6 per cent of all time-loss claims.
  • Lifting and moving people in the health-care industry is the single greatest source of time-loss injuries in Nova Scotia. Health and social services is the largest industry sector in the province and accounts for the highest volume of time-loss injuries at 1,680 in 2016, more than 2.5 times as many as the next closest sector.
  • Within health care, long-term care and home care account for 30 per cent of the payroll, but 60 per cent of time-loss claims and costs.
  • Injury rates fell notably in Wholesale Trade (from 1.39 to 1.18), Fishing and Trapping (from 2.39 to 1.77), and Transportation and Storage (from 2.79 to 2.47). 
  • The average claim duration in Nova Scotia increased to 110 days.
  • Working to Well, our new series of materials, videos, and a website dedicated to helping workers get back on the job, was developed in partnership with our colleagues in Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick and PEI. It’s the first ever Atlantic-Canada wide partnership focused on return to work.
  • The number of time-loss injuries caused by slips, trips, or falls decreased by almost 20 per cent from 2015.
  • Women represented 47 per cent of time-loss claims in 2016, compared to just 35 per cent in 2002. 

Definitions:
  • Acute fatality: caused by traumatic injuries at the workplace. 
  • Chronic fatality: caused by occupational diseases due to workplace exposures in the past, or health conditions, primarily cardiac events which may or may not have been directly related to work.
  • Registered claims: total amount of claims, regardless of whether or not they resulted in a worker losing time from work. 
  • Time-loss claims: total amount of claims serious enough to result in a worker missing three days or more from their job.
  • Injury rate: the number of people per 100 covered workers who are injured on the job seriously enough to lose three or more days of work.

For more information, contact: 
Jody Thomson, WCB Nova Scotia 
jody.thomson@wcb.ns.ca
902-491-8102