By Jamie Hall
The workplace safety landscape in Manitoba looks much different today than it did even five years ago. A comprehensive strategy for workplace injury and illness prevention, released in 2014, has led to a significant decrease in the number of injuries on the job, more productive partnerships with industry, and greater employer and worker access to services related to workplace safety and health.
The effect of these changes has been significant — not only to workers themselves, who are now less likely to be injured, but to colleagues, family members, and friends, who are less likely to face the loss of a loved one or the repercussions of a life-changing injury. For many employers, the changes have meant a healthier, more productive workforce and a reduction in overall WCB costs.
These changes began with the creation of SAFE Work Manitoba as a separate arm of the WCB and the public agency dedicated to workplace injury and illness prevention. It was charged with carrying out the new prevention strategy. From the start, its leaders recognized that one organization alone could not produce the desired impact on the state of workplace safety and health in the province. This effort would need to include those most familiar with the needs of their industries. That’s why the first element of its three-pronged approach was to support existing industry-based safety programs (IBSPs) and expand the number of IBSPs throughout the province, making IBSP services available to as many employers and workers as possible.
Industry-based safety programs
Over the last four years, SAFE Work Manitoba has helped to create five new IBSPs. These programs are for the manufacturing, trucking, service, agriculture, and self-insured sectors (two long-established safety associations serve Manitoba’s construction industry). Working in partnership with SAFE Work Manitoba, all these IBSPs have played a vital role in increasing workplace safety and health.
Made Safe is the IBSP for Manitoba’s manufacturing industry. Its members turn to Made Safe for services that include training courses, access to events and resources, consulting, and safety certification. Neal Curry, executive director of Made Safe, says having a program geared specifically to manufacturing has made all the difference.
“The significance of industry-based safety programs cannot be overstated. Programs that are run by and for a specific industry — which, in the case of Made Safe, is manufacturing — have a solid track record of injury reduction,” says Curry. “IBSPs are closer to their industries and have a good grasp of the hazards that are unique to that industry. Guided by a manufacturing safety council made up of executives and safety professionals from manufacturing companies, there is a trust factor with manufacturers that cannot be duplicated by organizations that are external to the industry.”
Substantial decrease in time-loss injuries
Collaborative efforts between SAFE Work Manitoba and Manitoba’s IBSPs have led to a significant decrease in time-loss injuries — those that cause employees to be absent from work. Industries with established IBSPs saw time-loss injuries drop 15.3 per cent between 2013 and 2017. In the manufacturing sector, the decrease was even greater — 25 per cent fewer time-loss injuries over the same period.
SAFE Work Certified
The second major component was the development of a certification program. At the start of 2017, SAFE Work Manitoba launched a workplace safety certification program called SAFE Work Certified. Developed with industry partners, it built on the successful COR program used in the construction sector and is available to Manitoba employers in any industry.
To become certified, employers must complete courses, undergo a gap assessment, develop or expand their safety management program, and successfully pass a certification audit. Certification is valid for three years, provided employers pass an annual maintenance audit. After three years, a re-certification audit is conducted.
Made Safe has been a strong supporter of SAFE Work Certified, and Manitoba’s manufacturing companies are reaping the benefits. It’s proven that safety certification makes a difference — certified employers have fewer time-loss injuries, higher levels of employee engagement, and lower overall costs. More than 1,250 companies in the province are now certified (including those already COR-certified) and another 115 companies have applied to become certified.
At the start of 2018, the final phase of SAFE Work Manitoba’s three-pronged approach was implemented. Employers meeting the SAFE Work Certified standard became eligible to receive a prevention rebate.
Certified employers receive a rebate equal to 15 per cent of their WCB premium or $3,000 — whichever is higher — to a maximum of 75 per cent of their premium. To receive this rebate, employers must have maintained their certification for the eligibility period (12 months from their certification date) and not have any administrative penalties or convictions during the eligibility period.
One of the goals of Manitoba’s injury prevention initiatives is for the province to become a leader in workplace safety and health. We are investing more in safety because we know our efforts will have wide-ranging benefits — for workers, employers, and all Manitobans. We hope to serve as an example of what can be accomplished when we all work together for safety. If you’d like more information, please visit safemanitoba.com.
Jamie Hall joined SAFE Work Manitoba as chief operating officer in May 2014. A former Manitoba Hydro executive, Jamie has also served on the board of directors of Safety Services Manitoba and is a sessional instructor in the University of Manitoba’s Asper MBA program.