Analysis of the Workplaces Safety and Insurance Act, 1997

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18th May 2020 Social Policy Reference this

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  1. Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997 (WSIA)

 

Workplaces Safety and Insurance Act, 1997 is a legislation which outlines and “provides

A no-fault insurance plan to compensate workers for work-related injuries and diseases. It also allows employers to limit their financial exposure to the costs of workplace accidents through a collective funding system”.

Filsinger (2019, p. 357). Employment Law for Business and Human Resources

Professionals (4th edition). Toronto, Canada: Emond

WSIA is governed by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) and have a pivotal role as a mediator. Each province and territory have their own board. In Ontario, it is known as “Ontario’s workplace compensation board”.

Purpose:

  • Promoting health and safety, and prevention of workplace accidents or injuries is the main aim of WSIA.
  • In case of any workplace accidents or injuries:
    1. Providing compensation and benefits to workers and to the survivors of deceased workers
    2. Providing support to the workers for recovery and to return to work.
  1. Historical content of WSIA

 

WSIA is formerly known as “Workers’ Compensation Act”:

Workmen’s Compensation for Injuries Act, 1886

Workmen’s Compensation Act, 1914

In 1886, the legislative assembly had enacted the “Workmen’s Compensation for Injuries Act” (re-enacted in 1892), which was essentially an employer liability act.

Initially the workplace accidents or injuries were dealt under the “Common Law” which means that workers had to file a law suit against the employer to seek compensation for any workplace accidents or injuries and the worker had to establish that the incident had occurred due to employer’s negligence. “However, an employer had several powerful defenses to an employee’s allegation of negligence and the law was biased in favour of employers and because lawsuits were expensive and time-consuming, most workers who were injured on the job received no compensation and many were left destitute if their injury rendered them unable to work.”

Filsinger (2019, p.10). Employment Law for Business and Human Resources Professionals

(4th edition). Toronto, Canada: Emond

In 1889, the Royal Commission on the Relations and Capital reported the high adversity of injuries among workers and highlighted the unsafe and demanding working conditions in various industries. It made several imperative recommendations to improve the working environment and due to infringement of provincial authority, the federal government could not act upon it.

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In 1910, the Royal Commision was led by Sir William Ralph Meredith to review and make recommendation for workmen’s compensation system in Ontario. In 1913, Sir William Ralph Meredith presented his recommendations and the “Workmen’s Compensation Act 1914” was first implemented effective Jan. 1, 1915, in which it states that some level of injury is inevitable, and the employers were liable to compensate workers for any workplace accidents or injuries irrespective of the type of negligence (contributory or co-worker negligence and voluntary assumption of risk)

Earlier to this, general damages for pain and suffering, and punitive damages for employer negligence were not available in worker’s compensation plans, and negligence was not an issue in the case.

An independent agency called as “Workmen’s Compensation Board” was initially governing the workmen’s compensation system and in 1981 the board was renamed as “Workers’ Compensation Board”.

The Free Encyclopedia. (2019, July 05). Retrieved from Workers’ Compensation.

Between the year 1932 and 1973 there were commissions and task force reports which examined and submitted their reports and recommendations.

In 1965, the Royal Commission had examined and all functioning aspects of the revised

Workmen’s compensation system in Ontario was steady and balanced until early 1960’s.

During late 1960 and early 1970, there was constant and serious debate about workers’ compensation system and the injured workers perceived that the “Workers’ Compensation Act” had multiple fundamental flaws. Post which in January 1973, a task force was appointed, it proposed a major recommendation for reorganizing of the WCB and service orientation since it lacked effectiveness & sensitivity. Simultaneously injured workers formed a union, “Union of Injured Workers” (UIW) in 1974, in order to bring pressure on WCB and the government.

Major reforms occurred during the decade of 1970 and 1980 – Legislation Changes:

Bill 101 – Workers’ Compensation Amendment Act, 1984

Bill 162 – Workers’ Compensation Amendment Act, 1989

Workers’ Compensation Act, R. S. O. 1990

Bill 165 – Workers’ Compensation Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Act, 1994,

Bill 15 – Workers’ Compensation Act and the Occupation Health and Safety Amendment Act, 1995

Bill 99 – Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997”.

Origins and foundations (2013, January).  Retrieved from Ontario Workplace Tribunals

Library.

 

  1. Worker Coverage

 

Under the “Workplace Safety and Insurance Act” a “worker” who has a contract of service is entitled for benefits and services, and the individual shoudl be working either in an industry or business that is covered by the act.

Under the “Workplace Safety and Insurance Act” industries are categorized into two schedules, “Schedule 1” & “Schedule 2”.

Schedule 1 Industries:

Construction,

Manufacturing,

Mining and related industries,

Retail and wholesale trades,

Transportation and storage.

Schedule 2 Industries:

Municipal governments,

Provincial governments,

Railways,

Telephone companies licensed by the federal government.”

Majority of the industries in the province are covered under the WSIA and few industries are not mandatorily covered. However, most of the employers in low-risk industries also apply coverage since it would secure them and mitigate risks of lawsuits due to workplace accidents or injuries and the matter of fact that the cost would be relatively minimal due to the lower risks.

Workers, e.g., executive officers, entrepreneurs, independent operators etc., who are automatically not covered under the act can choose “optional insurance” coverage.

Construction industry is an exception, in this case, executive officers, sole proprietors, partners and independent operators are mandatorily covered.

Workers’ compensation benefit was governed by the respective province “Workers’ Compensation Board” irrespective of an employee being employed by the federal public sector.

There are certain workers who are not covered under the WSIA:

 

  1. Individuals who are casually employed by the employer to perform work which is not the core objective or scope of the industry, e.g., hiring a mower only on requirement.
  2. Outworkers – Assigning or providing work to individuals to complete the task at their residence or any other premises, e.g., jewelry maker.

 

Industries that are exempted by the WSIA:

There are several industries that are exempted from compulsory coverage since they are not listed in either of the schedules, e.g. financial institutions, real estate agencies, insurance companies, social clubs, private schools and universities, etc., such industries have an option to apply “by application” coverage under the Schedule1.

Who is covered under the act? (2013. January). Retrieved from Ontario Office of the Worker

Adviser.

 

  1. Salient features of the Ontario’s WSIA:

 

  • The WSIA is designed to support and equip workers to receive medical care, rehabilitation services and benefits in case of workplace accidents or injuries and occupational diseases. A worker cannot file a lawsuit against the employer due to occupational illness or injuries.

 

  • Promoting health and safety, and prevention of workplace accidents or injuries is the main aim of WSIA.
  • In case of any workplace accidents or injuries:
    1. Providing compensation and benefits to workers and to the survivors of deceased workers
    2. Providing support to the workers for recovery and to return to work.
    3. Employers with more than twenty employees are required to re-employ injured workers who have minimum one year of service.
    4. In case an injured worker fails to return to work then the employer must support the individual in re-entering the workforce by preparing a work-transition plan.
  • Employers pay the WSIA premiums and most employees in Ontario are covered by the WSIA.
  • Workers, e.g., executive officers, entrepreneurs, independent operators etc., who are automatically not covered under the act can choose “optional insurance” coverage. Construction industry is an exception, in this case, executive officers, sole proprietors, partners and independent operators are mandatorily covered.
  • Workplace Safety and Insurance system is governed by “Workplace Safety and Insurance Board” (WSIB) and arbitrates all workplace safety & insurance concerns of the industries that are covered under the “Act”.

Filsinger (2019, p. 357). Employment Law for Business and Human Resources

Professionals (4th edition). Toronto, Canada: Emond

 Emerging trends of the WSIA:

 

  • Legalization of Cannabis (Marijuana) – It is prevalent scope of improvement for employers since most of them are not completely equipped to accommodate the new amendment and how to integrate the benefits plans and the costs. And accordingly, employers will also have to amend the organizations’ policy.

 

  • Workplace Mental Health – Chronic and Traumatic Mental Stress Entitlement

In May 2017, the WSIA was amended & introduced both chronic and traumatic mental stress entitlement and was effective from Jan. 1, 2018.

Bill 177 received Royal Assent and it clearly defined the transitional and retroactive coverage of the expanded chronic and traumatic mental stress entitlement.

  • Reduction of premium rates – WSIB has reduced an average premium rate of 29.8% for the year 2019.
  • WSIB introduced a “Workwell App” – It is an effective tool for all employers to assess their health and safety management system, promote health and safety, and support return to work outcomes.
  • WSIB launches online workplace health and safety tool termed as “Compass” – With the prime focus of bringing in transparency to workplace health and safety in Ontario, the tool provides statistics of any workplace and also features an option to compare the data with relevant industry or business category.

 

  • Falls from Heights – The Ministry of Labour released a report “Fall from Heights Fatalities Analysis” in order to support employers to mitigate common risks due to falls from heights which primarily had the root causes of reported cases from the year 2009 to 2016.  Health and Safety.(2019, March 21). Retrieved from Ontario Ministry of Labour
  •  Health care costs – On Jan. 1, 2018, a significant change termed as “OHIP+” was introduced and is anticipated to have certain level (minor) of impact on the overall costs depending on the individual plans.

All Ontario children who are not covered under private benefits plans will automatically be covered under “OHIP+” which provides free pharma care (drug products) for children and youth between the age of 0 to 24.

Drugs and Devices, OHIP+: Children and Youth Pharmacare. (2019, March 29). Retrieved from   Ontario Ministry of Health. 

 

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