100 suggestions for WCB reform in Manitoba

Traumatic injuries less frequent, but repetitive strain and musculoskeletal injures are increasing: government-commissioned report

Manitoba has taken another step in revamping its Workers’ Compensation Act for the first time in almost 20 years.

The Workers Compensation Act Review Committee submitted its 118-page report to Nancy Allan, Manitoba’s Labour and Immigration Minister.

The report is based on public consultations on the act. The four-member committee accepted written submissions and held public meetings throughout the province in the spring and summer of 2004.

Stakeholders made 203 submissions and 300 separate recommendations. A total of 510 people attended hearings across the province.

“This report presents 100 recommendations on modernizing and updating the Workers Compensation Act for the 21st century,” said Wally Fox-Decent, chair of the committee. “We have taken a practical, balanced and affordable approach to improving the compensation system.”

Changing workplaces, changing injuries

The foreword of the report notes that workplaces have changed greatly, and injuries are changing with them.

“Traumatic injuries are becoming less frequent, while repetitive strain and other musculoskeletal injuries are becoming more common,” it said. “It is better recognized today that many injuries and illnesses are multi-factoral in origin and, therefore, there is a greater awareness of previously misunderstood workplace causes.”

It noted that occupational diseases have been underreported to the WCB.

“Long periods of exposure to workplace hazards and long latency periods often made it difficult to determine the connection between workplace and illness,” it said. “The past two decades, however, have witnessed a dramatic increase in society’s technical ability to detect occupational diseases.”

The recommendations

The report contains 100 recommendations, including:

•providing incentives to employers that adopt successful health and safety and return-to-work programs;

•encouraging low-risk workplaces to opt into WCB coverage;

•amending the act so directors of corporate employers are considered to be employers for the purposes of the immunity provisions, because exposing directors to lawsuits by workers is contrary to the “spirit of the historic compromise when workers gave up their right to sue employers in return for security of compensation”; and

•covering full-time firefighters for certain types of cancer.

All of the recommendations can be viewed in the report, which is available online at www.wcbactreview.com/pdf/Working_for_Manitoba.pdf.

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