Workplace deaths in 2018 call for continued focus on safety (April 17/19)

Fisherman Timmy Saulnier of Meteghan Wharf wears his PFD while working at sea. It’s embroidered with the names of his three daughters - reminding him of the most important reasons he works safely. While there is long term progress in Nova Scotia’s workplace safety culture, 2018 was a tragic year in our workplaces. (Photo: Glynis Rogers)


April 17, 2019 - HALIFAX, NS – Workplace fatalities in Nova Scotia increased in 2018, according to statistics released today from WCB Nova Scotia and the Department of Labour and Advanced Education (LAE).

Fourteen Nova Scotians died from acute traumatic injuries on the job. There were also 26 fatalities classified as chronic – 12 related to occupational diseases and 14 caused by health related issues, such as heart attacks. (See backgrounder)

WCB Nova Scotia CEO Stuart MacLean says every death at work, or because of work, is a tragedy. He adds that the number of fatalities is a profound reminder about the importance of workplace safety. 

“These families across our province will never be the same - so many of these deaths are because of preventable incidents at work,” says MacLean. “Although we continue to see reductions in overall workplace injury, this is a startling number of workplace fatalities, We must not become complacent.” 

Labour and Advanced Education Minister Labi Kousoulis echoes that sentiment.

“Sadly in 2018, far too many Nova Scotia families were impacted by a workplace fatality,” he said. “The number of fatalities last year reminds us just how much work remains. We will continue to work closely with safety associations, employers and our partners to create a culture of safety in every workplace in Nova Scotia.” 

Acute fatalities painted a picture of tragedy across a number of industries. The industries with the highest acute fatality counts included six people who drowned or were lost at sea in fishing, and three deaths in the construction industry. 

The WCB and LAE continue to work closely with industry and other partners to promote workplace safety. Together, the organizations, along with safety associations, conduct workplace visits and education and awareness campaigns. Last fall LAE increased its presence at wharves on the South Shore and the Annapolis Valley to promote safety and support compliance.

A video portraying loss in the fishing sector began airing April 1, in the lead up to the Day of Mourning on April 28th.

It’s all part of ongoing efforts to make workplace safety a norm throughout the province. 

Also released today were WCB Nova Scotia’s statistical results from 2018. They show long-term progress in overall workplace safety, but challenges in returning to work after injury.

  • Registered claims: 24,584 in 2018, up slightly from 23,952 in 2017. Of those, 5,819 led to time lost from work in 2018, down 1.5 per cent from 5,906 in 2017

  • Time-loss injury rate: 1.72 per 100 covered workers in 2018, improved from 1.76 per 100 covered workers in 2017.

  • Average claim duration: The index used to measure average claim duration increased to 127 days in 2018, from 117 days in 2017. 

MacLean says the statistics show how workplace injury is changing. Claims today are often more complex, requiring different levels of service. The population is older, and claims are much more likely to include a mix of physical injury and mental health considerations.

There was a significant increase in mental health related claims in 2018. Time-loss claims for psychological injuries went up almost 50 per cent over 2017 and are over three times what they were in 2014. This includes claims for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and all other psychological injuries. 

The Workers’ Compensation Act was updated in 2018 to provide presumptive coverage for first responders, and there has been increasing awareness of the impacts of psychological injury since the WCB updated its policies in 2014.

Together with partners, WCB continues to encourage and support return to work among workers and employers. In 2018 the WCB continued to build on the Working to Well platform, providing information and resources, showcasing best practice, and sharing return-to-work success stories.  

As the face of injury changes, MacLean says WCB Nova Scotia knows the organization must change, too. 

“As we continue on our modernization journey, our improved systems and processes will better serve a changing workforce. The changes will mean better outcomes for workers and for employers, allowing us to continue reducing the impact of workplace injury,” he says. “We must all continue to do all we can to reduce the impact of workplace injury in our province.”  


For more information, contact:  

WCB Nova Scotia
Cindy Porter
P: 902-491-8107 or C: 902-220-6656 

Nova Scotia Department of Labour and Advanced Education 
Shannon Kerr
P: 902-424-0847 or C: 902-717-6061