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Over the past several weeks the state of workplace safety in Nova Scotia has become a topic of much debate: some safety advocates have questioned whether things are getting better, or if our approach is getting us the results that workers and employers in this province need and expect.
This is an important conversation. Workplace fatalities and injuries take a tremendous toll on individuals, families, businesses, and our province as a whole. Addressing our safety challenges in the future will require participation from a broad range of stakeholders and the achievement of province-wide consensus around common safety goals and courses of action.
The good news is that we already have a solid foundation for improvement. Nova Scotia has made significant progress in workplace injury prevention during the past decade. The safety environment within workplaces is improving. Time-loss workplace injury has declined from more than 9,000 injuries in 2005, to 6,616 last year. There has also been progress on helping injured workers return to their jobs in a safe and timely manner. In 2011, 40,000 fewer workdays were lost to injury than in the year before. This year we are on track to reduce that number by another 25,000 days. Our injury rate – the number of injuries per one hundred workers - is below two for the very first time.
We still have big challenges ahead of us. Our WCB assessment rates are still among the highest in Canada, and the amount of time workers are away from the workplace following an injury is longer than in most other Canadian provinces. But we also have a plan to tackle these issues.
Early next year our province will unveil a renewed workplace safety strategy. The strategy has been in development for more than a year and incorporates input from workers, employers, advocates, and experts from the private and public sectors. Although currently at a draft stage, the final strategy will include significant, real and lasting investments in prevention and education that will improve workplace safety today and for future generations.
Nova Scotia’s Workers Compensation Board and its 400 dedicated safety champions are looking forward to continuing to play a lead role in helping to evolve and advance our province’s safety culture over the next five years. Our vision remains a Nova Scotia where all workers return home to their families safe and sound at the end of every day. To achieve that vision we will need everyone – from the worker to the CEO, from government to advocacy groups, from the WCB to sector associations – to care about safety and take action to become part of the solution