2019 was a year of exceptional change at WorkSafeNB as our organization adopted and acted upon the recommendations of the Task Force on WorkSafeNB as well as those of the Auditor General. These recommendations, together with the mandate letter from our Minister, formed the basis of our three-year strategic plan and the beginning of our organizational transformation.
Our Vision is “Keeping People Safe and Healthy At Work” so as I reflect on our 2019 results, I am very proud that New Brunswick recorded its lowest level of injury frequency in the past 10 years,” said Doug Jones, WorkSafeNB’s president and CEO. “This is a result of the co-operative efforts of all stakeholders - our province’s workers, employers, safety associations and our own staff. I’m optimistic this indicates a behavioural change – that our workplaces are embracing a culture of health and safety more than ever before.”
Legislation was also passed in December 2019 that clearly outlined the occupational health and safety duties and responsibilities held by supervisors, employees and owners. While we still have much work to do to achieve an ultimate goal of “zero harm”, we are confident that a full understanding of these obligations will help us on our journey to make our workplaces safer every day, every month, every year.
Our workers’ compensation system built on the momentum provided by new legislation enacted in December 2018 and began 2019 on a positive note as a number of recommendations from the Task Force on WorkSafeNB were addressed. The legislation introduced the long-awaited gradual elimination of the unpaid three-day wait for injured workers while also addressing two key issues that have been driving workers’ compensation claims costs higher. It clarified that the intent of the workers’ compensation system is to compensate for work-related injuries only and policy deference was returned to WorkSafeNB’s board of directors.
Comparative statistics have shown that injured workers in New Brunswick were away from work much longer than injured workers in most other provinces. The longer someone is away from work, the more difficult it is to return to work and the more costly it is to the system. During 2019, legislation was introduced to embed language in the Workers’ Compensation Act, outlining the employer’s obligation to return injured workers to work, unless the accommodation causes the employer undue hardship.
“When someone is, unfortunately, injured on the job, helping them to return to work as safely and as soon possible is important to their recovery and their overall wellness. Everyone benefits as a result,” Jones said. “This legislation inspires workers and employers to explore creative ways to accommodate a recovering injured worker, whether it’s gradually from a couple of hours or one day a week to modifying positions or reimagining other ways to do job tasks."
Throughout 2019, a great deal of work was going on internally as the organization restructured and focused on process redesign in advance of defining the systems transformation requirements. We formed a Prevention team that was independent of other operation and could focus 100% of their time on awareness, education, inspection and compliance of workplaces regarding occupational health and safety.
At the same time, our Rehabilitation and Claims Management team restructured and moved away from geographic business units and focused on end-to-end process flow to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of processes. These organizational and process changes were essential in achieving many of the 2019 results and we are confident that they have paved the way for a stronger 2020.
Financial highlights for 2019 include:
Jones presented the 2019 year-end results at a virtual Annual General Meeting held August 5. In addition to a review of WorkSafeNB’s 2019 operating results, the president discussed current and upcoming initiatives and opportunities.
“I’m excited about the transformation journey we’ve embarked upon – a commitment to raising the bar to our new best. It's about embracing change, modifying our processes to be client-centric thereby serving our clients in ways that meet their needs, and leveraging technology,” he said.
Our transformation project incorporates three programs: Enterprise Experience; Client Experience; and Employee Experience. A pilot project under Client Experience, begun in 2019, has already seen positive results. First call resolution, with the goal of answering all a client’s questions and provide the information they need on the first call, doubled from 35% to over 70%. Also, under the Client Experience program is the commitment to improve and simplify the entire claims process for both workers and employers. Some changes to this process are being announced this week.
WorkSafeNB is looking forward to further legislation and regulatory change being enacted in 2020. We are proposing legislation to the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act that would make fishing vessels a place of employment. As well, considerable work has been completed to update occupational hygiene regulations. We are optimistic that we will see progress on both of these files in the coming months.
The 2019 Annual Report of the Firefighters’ Compensation Act Disability Fund can be viewed here.