Fewer Nova Scotians were injured at work in 2012, marking the eighth consecutive year of decline in the number of people seriously hurt on the job, but the number of workplace fatalities increased, according to the annual report from the Workers’ Compensation Board of Nova Scotia.
The province's workplace injury rate is measured by the number of people per 100 covered workers who are injured on the job seriously enough to lose three or more days of work. In 2012, the workplace injury rate was 1.96, down from 2.02 in 2011.
It is the first time the number has been below two since 1995, when time-loss claims began being measured this way. Since 2005, there has been a 30 per cent decline in time-loss injuries, according to the WCB.
Some 19,000 fewer working days were lost to injury in 2012, the equivalent of 52 working years.
There were a total of 32 workplace fatalities in 2012, which is up from the five fatalities reported in 2011.
Of the 32 fatalities in 2012, 10 were the result of an acute traumatic event in the workplace, up from four acute fatalities in 2011. One-third of the acute fatalities occurred in fishing.
There were 22 deaths resulting from chronic or health related conditions. Of these 22 chronic workplace fatalities, nine died from occupational diseases due to workplace exposures in the past, and 13 died due to other health conditions, primarily cardiac-related — which may or may not have been directly related to the work, the WCB said.
"This scale of tragedy is not only troubling, it is fundamentally unacceptable," said WCB of Nova Scotia CEO Stuart MacLean. "We are also struggling with the fact that, so far in 2013, we've already experienced vast, deep and tragic loss in our workplaces."
Already in 2013, there have been seven workplace fatalities in the fishing sector.
According to the WCB, understanding the nature of chronic fatalities, and the connection to Nova Scotia's aging population and population health, will be important for making future improvements to workplace safety in the province.
Financially, the WCB reported a comprehensive financial income of $62 million in 2012, primarily due to better investment returns following several tumultuous years in investment market performance.
"The financial results achieved in 2012 position us well for our goal to retire the unfunded liability in about 10 years," said MacLean. "Our rate of return for 2012 was above our benchmark return, and the comprehensive financial gain means we can take a step toward financial sustainability. However, there is much to do to achieve this goal."
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