Canadian Occupational Safety

July/August 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.

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 21 of 31

22 P E O P L E I N D U S T R Y P R O F I L E MAN WITH A PLAN Thomas Teahen, CEO of WSIB, talks to COS about his past, present and future goals for the organization, as well as the WSIB's plans to increase focus on mental health claims and digital services WHEN Thomas Teahen, president and CEO of Ontario's Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB), started his tenure in February 2016, he identified a series of different key priorities to tackle. COS spoke with Teahen at the start of his mandate about his goals for the future. At the time, he stated that his number one priority was for the public to view the workers' compensation agency as operating with integrity — something with which it has previously struggled. Four years and a few months on, and in a drastically different environment, has anything changed? "First and foremost, [my goal] was to ensure that the WSIB was always seen to be acting with integrity, being transparent and fair. I think we've accomplished that goal, but we still have more to do every day," says Teahen. "Some of the questions people had about us back in 2016 aren't being asked today, and we're being more consistent about communicating with our stakeholders." He says that another goal was to continue the path to eliminate the WSIB's unfunded liability. Since 2018, for the first time ever, the WSIB has been fully funded to cover future obligations for monies owed. This is one thing that Teahen is keen to outline as he says that there was a lot of debate around whether that should be a priority for the WSIB. He says that, of managing claims. It provides benefits for people who are injured or become ill at work as well as services to assist people to return to work safely. Teahen estimates that the WSIB covers about 75 to 78 per cent of employers in Ontario. Two years ago, Teahen and the WSIB implemented a new strategic plan for 2019-2021 with the aim of making sure that Ontario is the safest place to work in Canada and the world. As an independent trust agency, WSIB has given itself the mandate of making Ontario a safer place to work by strengthening the accountability and effectiveness of the province's health and safety system through the development of training programs, for example. A large part of its strategic plan is continuing to promote transparency at all levels. What else can be improved? "We're a service provider, and at times our service isn't meeting the standard it needs to meet — especially when it comes to providing digital services for workers and employers," says Teahen. He asks how will the WSIB continue to meet expectations of customers, especially as those may have changed given the novel coronavirus pandemic? Although a huge issue, there are other issues facing Ontario workers today. "I think the biggest issue continues to at the end of 2019, the WSIB's level of funding was 114%. Looking to the future and the current pandemic, Teahen is confident that the WSIB can face the crisis precisely because of the WSIB's level of funding. "Until you face a crisis and you actually have to deal with it, you don't understand how important [being fully funded] is," he says. "Never before had the WSIB had that kind of financial stability. We now have a workers' compensation system that is financially sustainable for Ontarians. People who are hurt or become ill as the result of their work can have full confidence that we will be here to help them now and in the future. And we've been able to reduce premium rates for employers for each of the last three years," says Teahen. Teahen says that, because the health and safety of workers is always a top priority, the WSIB has renewed and strengthened its focus on health and safety. "We've introduced a new health and safety excellence program, which complements a new program implemented by the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development. Our new program helps show businesses what health and safety excellence looks like and how they can take steps to achieve it." The WSIB is a provincial agency with an independent board of directors and is independent from government in terms be [ensuring] that workplaces are healthy and safe," says Teahen. He says that, in the last couple of years, there has been a reversal in the number of claims coming into WSIB. From 2010 to 2015, there was a reduction in injury rates. However, that trend started to reverse in 2016. "That's a challenge for us. It also signals that we have to redouble our efforts to make sure that there is a strong health and safety response," says Teahen. He says there are growing challenges in the workplace, not just in Ontario but in workplaces around the world. "One of the growing issues in workplace health and safety, which I think mirrors society more broadly, is how we're dealing with mental health stress and mental health injuries," says Teahen. "We want anyone dealing with work-related mental stress to get the help and support they need. We began a new chronic mental stress program in January 2018, which added to our existing traumatic mental stress and post-traumatic stress disorder services." Teahen says these claims very much reflect a trend in Canada, which is a growing awareness of mental health issues in society, which are critical issues that need to be addressed. Although there are certainly other issues facing workers and employers, talking about COVID-19 is unavoidable in this current climate. How COVID-19 has impacted workplaces, has the potential to impact people and how it will impact the WSIB's mission is very much a concern. "We are experiencing a significant number of claims related to COVID-19," says Teahen. "We have two types of claims: those suffering from COVID-19 and then people giving us notice that they've possibly been exposed to COVID-19." For those active claims, the WSIB has put a dedicated team into place. Linking "One of the growing issues in workplace health and safety, which I think mirrors society more broadly, is how we're dealing with mental health stress and mental health injuries." Thomas Teahen, president and CEO of WSIB WSIB HIGHLIGHTS (2018 STATISTICS) Source: Covers workplaces in 16 diverse industries 319,000 businesses are covered by the WSIB This translates to 5.6 million people in Ontario In 2018, the WSIB registered 254,000 claims WSIB's benefit payments totalled $2.830 million

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Canadian Occupational Safety - July/August 2020