Hike in WorkSafeBC premiums related to increasingly complex claims: City

By Dominic Abassi
December 7, 2018 - 5:36pm

WorkSafe claims for injuries and stress among City staff are driving up premiums for the 2019 budget and likely beyond.File photo/NanaimoNewsNOW

NANAIMO — Increased WorkSafeBC premiums are putting pressure on the City's budget and it's likely that pressure won't be relieved for a few years to come.

The City is facing a nearly $300,000 increase in premiums for the 2019 budget, an amount which drove up the proposed property tax increase by roughly 0.3 per cent.

Director of human resources John Van Horne said WorkSafe uses claim data from the three previous years to calculate premiums and since 2016 and 2017 "weren't terribly great ones here," he said it's likely costs will increase further over the current council's term.

"The word we need to get out for the entire organization is let's re-focus some attention on the things that people can get injured doing and see if there's a way of ameliorating that so we don't have these claim numbers," Van Horne said.

He said the bulk of the injury claims are sprains and strains related to labour jobs, often in areas like public works and parks, as well as high-stress City roles like lifeguards and firefighters.

Van Horne said mental health related claims, for things like post traumatic stress disorder, are a big factor in the increase.

"There's increasing recognition of PTSD and the impact it has, both people being diagnosed with it and coming forward to say 'I think something is wrong in my life.' We have some staff that can see some pretty horrific things in the course of their work. I think with the increased focus on that, we are definitely seeing that come home in the numbers."

Between 2009 and 2014 there were eight stress related claims for City staff. From 2015 to 2018 there were 10, however Van Horne noted the cost of those types of claims quadrupled in the last three years compared to the previous five.

"WorkSafe is getting better at diagnosing and establishing proper treatment plans for those issues," he said. "With that, there's more lost time related to it and more cost."

Van Horne said the City is actively addressing the issue and analyzing risk factors with safety committees.

The City's recent switch to automated garbage collection is expected to significantly lower or eliminate some of the most frequently occurring claims, however given WorkSafe's backwards looking premium calculations, the financial benefits won't be immediate.

"The positive changes we're going to make...We're not going to see the payoff for that for some time to come, but that doesn't mean it's not happening."

Nanaimo Fire Rescue members underwent PTSD resiliency training this summer, with chief Karen Fry previously telling NanaimoNewsNOW issues like the overdose crisis are causing significant trauma.


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On Twitter: @domabassi

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