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.

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Page 22 of 31 23 to the rise in mental health claims, Teahen says a potential new element of those COVID-19 claims may also relate to mental health issues stemming from the pandemic. He says there are two kinds of contrasting experiences during the novel coronavirus pandemic: On one hand, there are workers in certain sectors that have been deemed essential that are potentially facing exposure to COVID-19. On the other hand, there are different issues for workplaces that have shut down, where workers have faced the impact of potentially losing their jobs in a short-term or permanent capacity. The WSIB has created a $1.9-billion financial relief package, in conjunction with the Government of Ontario, to help employers reduce the financial LEADING INJURY CHARACTERISTICS (2018 STATISTICS) Thomas Teahen, president and CEO of WSIB Source: WSIB 2018 statistical report on injuries and occupational disease burden of COVID-19. This new landscape has greatly impacted the WSIB's business. "We know that employers may not be able to pay premiums to us," says Teahen. The WSIB has put into place a number of relief measures. "Back in March, we announced a deferral of premium payments for six months to provide some stress relief." All businesses are eligible for this deferral, and the WSIB is waiving interest and penalties during this period. Nevertheless, Teahen says he doesn't think that COVID-19 will necessarily have an impact on the WSIB's future, precisely because the organization's mission is to reduce or eliminate the "often devastating impact that occurs from a workplace injury or illness" in a normal context or in the context of COVID-19. He also stresses that, as sprains and strains (nature of injury/illness) overexertion (event during which injury/illness was inflicted) people — bodily motion or condition (source of injury/illness) low back (part of body affected by injury/illness) 47% 18% 25% 16% mentioned before, due to the WSIB's current level of funding, it should be able to guarantee payments and services to people with work-related injuries or illness. However, how the WSIB delivers its services does have the potential to change. One of the ways the WSIB could up its game is by looking toward the tech sector and moving toward more digital services, which has been a temporary (and now maybe permanent) solution for many businesses and service providers around the world — including the WSIB itself, which has continued to provide many of its services through online means. "One thing we're looking at is how to do virtual health care. We're not sitting back and waiting; we're trying to think of new and innovative models to provide the best outcomes for the people we serve," says Teahen. As we move away from traditional workplace models, tech and virtual care certainly seem to be on a lot of peoples' minds and a way for many Canadian businesses and organizations to look toward the future. Ultimately, for the WSIB to continue to serve its customers, it has to set itself up for the future. Although right now may be a tough time, and the WSIB is focusing part of its energies on helping workers and employers survive the current crisis, the WSIB is continually looking at ways to improve its services whether those are COVID-19 related or not. Teahen has an upbeat attitude. "You have to be thinking ahead, and thankfully we'll be able to withstand [COVID-19] in a reasonable way. We'll get through this."

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