The statistics on workplace injuries in Nova Scotia are truly staggering. Every month, on average, there are 180 serious back injuries, 9 burns and 49 broken bones or dislocations. And there are 2 workers each month who go to work but never return home to their families.
According to the Workers’ Compensation Board, one in every 10 Nova Scotia workers is injured on the job at some point.
Many years ago, before there was Workers’ Compensation, and still today if your employer doesn’t have it, a worker who is injured on the job would have no choice but to sue their employer to get any compensation for their injury or for time lost at work because of the injury.
So the deal with Workers’ Comp is that the employer pays a premium (like insurance) and, in exchange for that, employees are legally forbidden from suing their employers for workplace injuries. Instead of having to go to court, workers – in theory at least – will receive the same compensation from Workers’ Comp that they would have gotten from a lawsuit against their employer.
There are industries where Workers’ Comp is mandatory for employers with three or more employees and a few industries where it is still optional. The amount of the premium that an employer pays depends first on an assessment made by the Workers Compensation Board. If you are in an industry where there are lots of injuries, you pay more, in theory at least, than if they operate in a “safer” sector with fewer injuries. Individual business rates are then set based on the employer’s WCB claims experience. The more workplace injuries your employees have, the more you pay.
Many employers naturally view Workers’ Comp as a tax and they only provide it for their employees if they absolutely have to. For example, businesses that operate entirely in office environments may (or may not) be in a sector where Workers’ Comp is not legally required. With the increasing frequency of diagnosed repetitive strain injuries (like carpal tunnel syndrome, for example) employers who opt not to provide Workers’ Comp are taking a certain risk that might be sued by an employee for an injury sustained on the job.
Employers who are seeking free advice and advocacy when dealing with the WCB on assessments, claims and other matters can contact the Office of the Employers Advisor at 902-442-9366. Their website is oeans.ca
Employees who have been denied Workers Comp benefits may obtain free legal advice and representation through the Workers Adviser’s program, operated by the provincial Department of Labour and Advanced Education. They have experienced lawyers and paralegals who are completely independent from the Workers Compensation Board. Their toll free number is 1-800-774-4712. Their website is www.gov.ns.ca/lae/wap/about
*Michael Coyle is an experienced lawyer and a neutral mediator and arbitrator based in Kentville, Nova Scotia. Information expressed in this article is meant for general interest only and is not a substitute for legal advice about your own situation. Michael can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org Please feel free to send him questions or suggest topics for future articles. For more information and tips, visit his website at www.michaelcoyle.ca
©Michael V. Coyle, 2012