Canadian Occupational Safety

May/June 2020

Canadian Occupational Safety (COS) magazine is the premier workplace health and safety publication in Canada. We cover a wide range of topics ranging from office to heavy industry, and from general safety management to specific workplace hazards.

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Page 24 of 35 25 during the fire; it could be after the fire when it's still hot and it's gassing off," says Germain. "It could be the clothing that they're wearing. If they don't wash it right, they could be bathing in these chemicals because it's soaked into their gloves and jackets and boots." Yet another example is exposure to diesel while conducting maintenance on the fire trucks. Finally, the fourth priority area identified in the three-year strategy is falls from heights, something with which many industries grapple. WorkSafe is aiming to reduce falls from heights injuries by 30 per cent and develop or adopt an appropriate fall protection training standard with the help of an industry best practice group. One of the main challenges in this area — regardless of industry — is working off ladders. "We were surprised by how many falls at heights were still happening off of ladder use," says Germain. "It could be kind of a 'back to the basics' message around falls from heights." WorkSafe is also working with the residential construction industry to understand what its real challenges are in using fall protection and what can be done to educate or assist the industry. "[Sometimes,] they don't believe fall protection will help them or it costs them money in terms of it slows them down," says Germain. "If they're not able to be profitable based on a certain way of doing it, you now know why they are putting themselves at risk. But there's got to be a way for them to be profitable and use fall protection — there has to be." Germain not only has experience working with the residential construction industry during his time with the Alberta Construction Safety Association early in his career but he intimately understands the challenges of small businesses because his mom was a janitor with her own contracting business and his dad was a small contractor. "I understand how good people may not know anything about health and safety, but that doesn't mean [that] because they don't focus on health and safety they are not good people and they aren't good companies," says Germain. "I know from my own experience growing up [that] this wasn't intuitive and it wasn't easy." Return to work It's clear in speaking with Germain that he is quite passionate about helping injured workers return to work. According to WCB statistics, roughly 11 per cent of claims represent 80 per cent of costs and 80 per cent of comp days. SERIOUS INJURIES 2010-2018 Germain says he wants to determine what is unique about these claims in order to manage them effectively. "How do we identify the determinants of these claims? What's common about them and what is it we can do to assist?" he asks. "For sure, some of those people will need to be on long-term earnings replacement, they will never go back to work, but how many of those people if we [had] done the right thing at the right time could have and should have returned to work?" Take, for example, a roofer who falls off a ladder and breaks his arm but does not go back to work after it has healed. The employer is upset, the WCB is confused and it's the typical story you hear around those challenging claims. "But what if what we have not realized is that [the] worker now has a phobia of heights, now he has a fear of falling and we didn't identify it as [a] barrier — now there's a psychological barrier that looks like the person is healed," says Germain. Fear of pain, fear of re-injury, low social network, substance abuse and mental health issues are just some of the determinants of what get in the way of people returning to work. Soft tissue injuries are a great example of this, says Germain. Two identical claims may come in, but it takes one person three years to heal and go back to work, while the other is back on the job in just six weeks. "When we start to dig into it, we believe the difference is that other individual has some of those other determinants that we are not aware of," he says. "So, what's our process for identifying these determinants up front and instead of allowing the claim to get off track?… Are there things we could have done that would have prevented all of this from becoming a problem down the road?" While he has been in his new role for less than a year, Germain has worked for the WCB since 2005, and he has a very clear idea of what he would like to have accomplished in his time at the organization: figure out how to effectively reduce serious injuries and fatalities, as well as manage them properly. "It boils down to good customer service. How do we help these companies and injured workers deal with these issues?" says Germain. "I really believe there's a win-win where, if we learn how to deal with these serious injuries more effectively, the employers will go 'That's great service for my injured worker' and the injured workers are saying, 'We were very well treated and supported at WCB.'" Phil Germain, CEO, Saskatchewan Workers' Compensation Board Source: WorkSafe Saskatchewan Mission: Zero, Fatalities & Serious Injury Strategy 2019-2021 2800 2700 2600 2500 2400 2300 2200 2100 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2654 2690 2732 2551 2408 2325 2386 2376 2472

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