Know safety, no injury

Many Manitoba manufacturers are seeing reductions in their WCB premiums — but that’s no reason to deter focus or investment on improving safety outcomes. 

By Dani Desautels. 

Manitoba manufacturers have made enormous strides in improving workplace safety over the last decade. Safety is one of the three main pillars supporting success in business, and we are doing well. But, there is more work to be done, and vigilance must remain high. Backsliding is not an option.

In a consolidated effort to maintain and improve workplace safety, Manitoba’s manufacturing safety association landscape has changed dramatically over the past year. New industry associations have been formed to cover the province in every sector, and they are ready to help and serve their members.

Made Safe was formally introduced in January 2016 by Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, evolving from the Agricultural Manufacturers of Canada safety association, which had been around since 1994, to become a program for all manufacturing companies in the province. Other associations, such as the Construction Safety Association of Manitoba and Manitoba Heavy Construction Safety Association have been in operation since 1989-90, while several new organizations have emerged more recently to support safety in various sub-sectors, including the RPM Trucking Industry Safety Association and the Motor Vehicle Safety Association of Manitoba.

All of these industry-based safety programs (IBSPs) share a common raison d’être: To provide resources that help companies develop tools to improve safety outcomes and be in compliance with legislation.

At minimum, safety should always be held at the same level of importance as quality and production. If you don’t have quality, you don’t have a customer; if you don’t have production, you don’t have a product to sell; and, if you don’t have healthy workers, you don’t have either of the first two.

Most modern manufacturers understand that. In 2007, the manufacturing industry in Manitoba suffered from an injury rate slightly above 17 per cent. In 2015, however, the rate had fallen to 5.1 per cent, and early indications suggest that mark fell even further last year. Yet, there is still a long road ahead.

Unfortunately, some businesses can be lulled into complacency when Workers Compensation Board (WCB) rates fall. The message they hear is that they’ve done well, and their programs are working, so why continue to push the bar?

It is true that when companies have good safety programs and ensure their workers are compliant, they will have fewer injuries and less lost production. In turn, their rates will go down. If WCB rates fall each year, it’s often because the company is not contributing reportable injuries.

But there are other fundamentals attached to WCB rates. For example, the WCB may have made sound investments and, by legislation, cannot carry a surplus. In that case, the board will return the surplus to industry through lower rates. If rates are coming down for an industry sector as a whole, an individual company within that sector could also drop to a lower risk category, bringing its rates down despite no significant improvement in safety performance.

It stands to reason then that just because a company’s rates have fallen doesn’t mean it can back away when it comes to safety vigilance.

As of this year, the WCB has a new way for companies to keep safety top-of-mind, with a powerful, built-in incentive. The Manitoba Safety Certification program was recently launched after more than two years’ worth of consultation and input from government and industry. Going forward, companies who are aligned with the certification program can apply for a rebate. It takes some work — four courses are required to achieve the certification — but it will be worth the time and effort.

IBSPs are there to help every step of the way.

Has your organization enrolled yet in a safety association? Only one-third of Manitoba manufacturers are currently signed up as members. Although that is more than double from just three years ago, there is no good reason not to access such a supportive tool. It’s a company’s best resource in running successful safety programs and making sure all employees go home healthy every day.

Manitoba’s safety associations are committed to seeing our entire culture be safety-aware and safety-driven. We want the safety toolkits used by employees at work to follow them home, and vice versa. We want a province where people don’t just stop using safety tools because they’ve clocked out for the day.

Rebates shouldn’t be the only reason to embrace a workplace safety culture. Safety should be front and centre at work and at home, so we can raise generations that believe safety is just part of growing up. That’s how we’ll create a safer, healthier future.

We’re doing better than ever, but there’s a long way to go. Let’s keep going down that road to safety, and keep our collective foot on the gas pedal.

How? Join the associations. Apply for Manitoba Safety Certification. Follow the legislation. Be diligent about your safety programs, and let your associations help. Our workplaces, homes, families, and our province will all be better for it.

Dani Desautels currently serves as program manager for Made Safe and is a CRSP-designated safety professional.