Rising Injury Numbers Present Opportunity for Employers

Changes in workforce mean safety must remain a focus

By Jamie Hall

We often hear that for every challenge or problem that arises, there is also an opportunity to be found. For employers in the manufacturing sector, which is currently experiencing a rise in overall injury claim numbers, there are ways to help slow the tide of injuries and turn the situation around.

But first, it’s important to understand the numbers – and the effect of COVID-19 on these numbers. Including COVID claims, there were 1,219 time-loss claims (those that result in an employee being away from work) across all sectors in December 2021, according to data from the Workers Compensation Board of Manitoba (WCB). This number was essentially the same as the five-year high set last year at 1,225. There were 379 COVID time-loss claims in December 2020 compared to 67 in December 2021. If COVID claims are excluded, the December 2021 time-loss claim number would not have reached a five-year high, but the claim level was still very high at 1,152 claims, or 21 per cent higher than the five-year average.

Although the manufacturing sector was one of the sectors experiencing a five-year high in time-loss injuries for the month of December, it was not alone in experiencing more injuries. Injury numbers in the healthcare, trade, and construction sectors are also at or close to five-year highs. On the monthly time-loss claims chart, the trend is strong in recent months, with injuries in several months higher than the five-year average.

Breaking it down

Looking at sub-sectors in manufacturing, 13 of 16 sub-sectors had an increase in time-loss claims in 2021 compared to 2020. The largest increases were in heavy metal working, meat processing, wood and millwork, and food and beverage processing. Aircraft manufacturing and repair, clothing/textile manufacturing, and construction manufacturing were the only three sub-sectors with fewer claims.

Behind the trend 

The pandemic resulted in significant fluctuations in manufacturing payroll. The current 2021 payroll estimate is a six per cent increase over 2020, one of the largest increases in the past 20 years. This may help explain the increase in manufacturing injury claims. A shortage of skilled labour in manufacturing is likely another factor behind the growing number of injury claims. Over the past five years, the average years of service of injured workers in the manufacturing sector has decreased.

Turning the numbers around

Made Safe, an industry-based safety program in Manitoba, provides safety and health services designed for the needs of the manufacturing environment. In partnership with SAFE Work Manitoba, Made Safe makes it easier for employers and workers to ensure workplaces are safe and productive. Since its inception in 2016, Made Safe has provided industry-specific safety and health training for workers and assistance to employers in developing safety programs and services for their workplaces. 

With Made Safe, employers can look forward to:

• access to an extensive range of member services, including more than 30 training courses

• fewer time-loss injuries and days lost from work

• 15 per cent rebate on WCB fees upon becoming SAFE Work Certified

• Lower WCB costs for everyone as a result of a safer industry.

Earning safety certification is another way for employers to reduce injury numbers. SAFE Work Certified is Manitoba’s safety and health certification standard that helps make workplaces safer and provides a financial reward to employers that prevent workplace injuries and illnesses. Employers who receive certification have lower WCB premiums over time and improved employee engagement. They can also be confident in meeting legal safety requirements. Employers that achieve SAFE Work Certified can qualify to receive a rebate of 15 per cent on their WCB premium, while smaller employers will receive up to a maximum of $3,000.

If you need help decreasing injuries in your workplace, I encourage you to contact Made Safe at madesafe.ca or 204.949.1454 and reach out to SAFE Work Manitoba by calling 204.957.SAFE (7233) or 1.855.957.SAFE (7233), or by emailing information@safeworkmanitoba.ca. 

Jamie Hall is the Chief Operating Officer of SAFE Work Manitoba. He is part of a team of people who are passionate about changing the landscape of safety in order to realize significant improvements in safety performance in Manitoba.