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Labour Minister Danny Soucy said the 15-per-cent cut in WorkSafeNB's average assessment rates is good news for businesses. (Government of New Brunswick)

Labour Minister Danny Soucy is crediting a drop in workplace accidents for WorkSafeNB’s decision to slice its average assessment rates by 15 per cent for 2013.

The provincial agency announced on Thursday it would cut its average assessment rate to $1.44 per $100 of payroll from $1.70.

Soucy said about 90 per cent of New Brunswick employers will be benefiting from this rate cut.

"It’s not something you hear about often," Soucy said, referring to an agency reducing its rates.

"We are quite happy that this is happening for employers and employees. It is great news. As the new minister of this department, I am very happy."

Soucy moved into the department during Premier David Alward's latest cabinet shuffle.

Sharon Tucker, the chair of WorkSafeNB’s board of directors, said in a statement the agency’s rates are the lowest in Atlantic Canada.

"By attaining a fully-funded position, WorkSafeNB has assured rate stabilization for employers and the continuing security of benefits for our injured workers," Tucker said in a statement.

"But, more importantly, since accident costs are key to determining assessment rates, this rate decrease signifies healthier and safer workplaces for all New Brunswickers, " she said.

The province’s labour minister said he’s hopeful that business will use the savings to reinvest in their businesses or hire additional staff.

A 'victory' for businesses

Richard Dunn, the New Brunswick policy analyst for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, applauded the rate cut.

"The amount, a 15 per cent decrease, is really interesting. That is a significant savings," he said.

"This is a victory for our members and all businesses."

Dunn said his organization has been working closely with small business owners to try and reduce workplace accidents.

"We’ve helped close to 500 New Brunswick members with understanding their health and safety obligations," Dunn said.

The policy analyst said businesses pay different rates depending on what type of industry they are in. So, Dunn said some businesses will have a higher savings if they are in industries that have higher rates.

Dunn said the CFIB has carried out surveys asking its members what they would do if their business costs were reduced. He said most businesses say they would hire additional staff or invest in their company.

The CFIB policy analyst said he’s now hopeful these savings are not overshadowed by rising insurance rates or gas prices.

"We don’t want something else to come in and erase those savings," he said.

"Generally, the cost of business has been going up, so to see something come down is a real treat."