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Our management-side labour and employment group at Siskinds is dedicated to offering effective strategies and advice to our employer clients, including helping them manage and control costs tied to their employment relationship with workers. A significant part of my practice revolves around handling costs linked to Workplace Safety and Insurance Board and occupational health and safety claims. In this blog, I will discuss the different ways we help our clients control expenses and provide tips for employers to consider.

Workplace Safety Insurance Board (WSIB)

When it comes to WSIB, there are three main ways that we help employers control costs in this area:

  1. Return-to-Work process
    When dealing with workplace injuries, it is crucial to efficiently manage the return-to-work process. The assistance of a WSIB Return-to-Work Specialist can be instrumental in achieving this goal. Promptly restoring employees to their full wages is of great importance, as any loss of earnings benefits resulting from an injury can impact the employer’s claim costs and potentially lead to higher premiums.

    An interesting aspect is the intersection between the obligations imposed by the Human Rights Code and the responsibilities under WSIB. Often, fulfilling our obligations in one area also covers our responsibilities in the other.
  2. Claim costs
    Another significant aspect we focus on is effectively managing claim costs. Ensuring accurate premium rates is essential, which involves assessing the appropriateness of the classifications assigned based on your business activities. This typically requires reviewing past WSIB audits and examining claims documentation to determine if any corrections need to be made.

    Correcting an incorrect classification can result in substantial claims savings for up to two years, depending on the circumstances. It is advisable to regularly review this aspect.
  3. WSIB’s decisions
    The final key area we address within the WSIB context is verifying the accuracy of WSIB’s decisions. This may involve determining if entitlements are owed according to the plan’s terms and conditions or ensuring proper claim management by the WSIB. As an employer, you will receive copies of the WSIB’s decisions, often with an option to object within a specified timeframe (usually within six months of the decision.)

    We recommend consulting with legal counsel to assess the viability of appealing these decisions. At the very least, filing a notice of intent to object signals the need for a second opinion. This typically grants access to the employee’s claim file, which should only be used for adjudicating the WSIB claim and assessing its appropriateness. It is prudent to gather the necessary information to make an informed decision about pursuing an appeal, considering the associated costs and risks.

These are the primary areas we focus on when dealing with WSIB matters.

Obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act

The second area of concern for employers regarding health and safety is their obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. This is likely not new information to most individuals. However, it is essential to note that there are specific rules and regulations under this Act that vary depending on the nature of the industry. In industries such as light construction and industrial environments, employers must adhere to distinct guidelines. There are three key aspects that I recommend clients focus on.

  1. Training
    First, it is crucial to provide proper training to employees and maintain documentation of the training. While having a set of boilerplate policies is better than having no policies at all, it is even more important to have customized policies that align with the specific nature of the work being performed.

    Equally important is ensuring that effective training systems are in place for both supervisors and employees. In the event of a workplace accident, merely stating that an employee was taught by colleagues is insufficient as a valid defense under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Investing in comprehensive training can significantly contribute to potential defense strategies in case of accidents.
  2. Documentation
    The second aspect involves documenting the occurrence of training sessions and the existence of related policies. Litigation and defense against occupational safety charges heavily rely on documentation. It is crucial to gather as much evidence as possible to demonstrate that the training has taken place and to keep records of attendees. Every piece of information that can be documented should be recorded diligently.
  3. Planning
    Lastly, having a concrete plan in place for responding to accidents is essential. Employers must consider how they will react and what actions they will take in the event of an accident or near-miss situation. It is crucial to understand the mandatory reporting obligations to the Ministry of Labour, identify the responsible individual for managing the flow of information, and make timely reports accordingly.

These initial reactions after a workplace incident play a critical role. Complying with legislative obligations and carefully controlling the information provided to the Ministry of Labour can significantly impact the outcome in the event of charges. It is worth noting that government decisions on charges may take up to two years, and fines can be substantial, ranging from $40,000 to $60,000 depending on the nature of the injury, or even reaching hundreds of thousands of dollars in cases of fatalities.

Therefore, being well-prepared to defend against charges is of utmost importance. Assessing the risks involved and considering potential litigation or negotiation strategies with the Crown allows for the best possible outcome for the business. To make informed decisions, we want to ensure that all relevant documentation and facts are available to provide accurate advice.

Have questions about practical advice and representation for unionized and non-union workplaces?

These are the primary tips we provide to assist employers in reducing and controlling costs associated with occupational safety. However, we offer a range of other services to our clients. Many of our clients are unionized, and we provide guidance on collective bargaining, grievance arbitration, human rights, and various other aspects. Siskinds’ management-side Labour & Employment team is well-versed in addressing a wide range of issues.

If you have any questions or require assistance with managing these aspects of your business, please feel free to contact us. We are here to help.

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