By Anthony Capkun
August 21, 2014 – Ontario’s Workplace Safety & Insurance Board (WSIB) says that—for the second consecutive year—premium rates in 2015 will be maintained at current levels for the majority of employers.
“Thanks to continuing improvements in return-to-work outcomes, more timely adjudication and lower claim volumes, the WSIB is able to provide premium rate stability while improving our funding position,” said Elizabeth Witmer, WSIB chair.
Maintaining current rates for 2015 can also be attributed to modest increases in employer premiums in previous years and continued growth in employer payrolls, says WSIB, adding that matching premium revenues to overall costs has ensured a more sustainable system. The compensation system is more than 64% funded today, adds the board, “and we are on our way to meeting our legislated requirements of 80% funding by 2022 and 100% by 2027”.
But not everyone is enthralled with WSIB’s announcement.
“A rate freeze is not the good news story it once was,” said Richard Lyall, interim-chair of the Construction Employers Council on WSIB, Health & Safety, and Prevention—a coalition of associations such as Ontario General Contractors Association (OGCA), Ontario Road Builders’ Association (ORBA), Ontario Sewer & Watermain Construction Association (OSWCA), and more.
“Employers in Ontario are being overtaxed as premium rates remain much higher than is necessary given the significant decline in LTI rates over the last decade. While we are encouraged by the board’s improved finances, let me be clear: this largely came about by employer actions to reduce injuries and accept high premium rates.”
Lyall pointed out that, since 2004, construction injuries have declined by 36%, and yet, over the same time period, the average maximum construction premium per worker has increased by 41%. Employers are continually investing in health & safety training and technologies to improve their LTI performance, but they have not seen a return for this investment (through decreasing premium rates) in over a decade, says the council.
These fees are putting a considerable strain on Ontario construction employers and add significant costs to the price of infrastructure development, insists the council, offering this comparison: a residential construction worker in Alberta pays $1698 to insure a worker earning $100,000, while the same employer in Ontario would pay 4.5x that amount to cover the same amount of risk.
Lyall concluded that “the time has come for employer premium rates to more accurately reflect our risk. Today, they do not”.