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This article was published 19/9/2014 (2122 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A City of Winnipeg initiative to reduce the number of hours lost from injuries has backfired, with more workers injured for greater periods of time, at skyrocketing costs.
A safety audit found from 2008 to 2012, the number of injuries suffered by civic workers increased, and there was a corresponding increase in related costs.
The audit found while city hall put a workplace-safety plan in place, it has no minimum safety standards.
"Although the city does not have a complete cost figure, the (costs associated with rehabilitation and wages) are already significant and trending in the wrong direction," states the audit.
The report, conducted by the city's audit department, found:
-- The costs for workplace injuries almost doubled from 2010 to 2012, from $4.7 million to $9 million.
-- There were 103,790 employee hours lost to workplace injuries in 2012.
'Many of our members are working 16-hour workdays, six and seven days a week, some for 30 days straight ‐ you're going to have injuries'‐ CUPE's Mike Davidson
-- 67 per cent of injuries are strains and sprains.
-- The number of injuries per 100 workers declined from 2008 to 2010, but has been increasing since then, and the 2012 rate is higher than 2008.
-- The number of hours lost per injury has increased substantially.
-- From 2010 to 2012, there was a 62 per cent increase in the number of lost hours from injury per 100 workers: 860 lost hours/100 workers in 2010 versus 1,393 lost hours/100 workers in 2012.
-- Only two-thirds of workplace injuries were addressed with a corrective plan. Of those, fewer than half the plans were implemented.
-- The city's injury record is 38 per cent higher than that of provincial workers.
The province's record is trending downward, while the city's is trending upwards.
The audit found the departments with the highest frequency of injuries were fleet management, followed by fire and paramedic services; the departments with the lowest frequency of injuries were community services and police.
The findings don't surprise Mike Davidson, president of CUPE Local 5000, which represents the bulk of civic employees.
Davidson said it's clear the injury statistics are a result of the city operating with too few employees.
City hall, he said, is increasingly relying on an older, smaller workforce, which is expected to put in extensive overtime.
Injuries and more lost time are a direct result of bad policies driven by financial concerns.
"Many of our members are working 16-hour workdays, six and seven days a week, some for 30 days straight -- you're going to have injuries," Davidson said.
The situation was most acute last winter, he said, when the city faced criticism for the way it handled frozen pipes, water-main breaks and snow clearing.
"You work differently when you're 27 years old than you do when you're in your 50s and on top of working long hours, week after week."
The report doesn't deal with 2013 or 2014.
Davidson said he expects the injury stats to get worse for those years, given the extreme winter conditions.
Unlike most other workplaces, where employers pay premiums to the Workers Compensation Board to cover the cost of injuries and rehabilitation, the city self-insures and is responsible for all related costs.
The city launched a workplace-safety initiative in 2009 to reduce loss-time injuries by 25 per cent, but the audit found the lost-time rate increased, with a corresponding increase in costs: Injuries cost the city $6.9 million in 2009 and that rose to $9 million in 2012.
The report says the costs do not include wages for replacement workers or reduced productivity when workers return.
The audit could not explain why the city's lost-time injury rate is so much higher than that of the province.
Bryan Mansky, the city's deputy city auditor, told members of executive policy committee Wednesday that while the city has a comprehensive safety plan in place, it wasn't carried out properly.
"What appeared to have happened through the implementation was there was some inconsistencies, misinterpretations on roles and responsibilities on who should be responsible for what part of that workplace-safety program," Mansky said.
Mansky said strains and sprains account for 67 per cent of workplace injuries, and the city has put a program in place to reduce that number.
In addition to lacking minimum safety standards, the report found the city lacks performance data to determine if departments are complying with provincial safety regulations.
It outlined several recommendations to address the issues, some of which the administration said have been implemented.
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