Thunder Bay

Rising WSIB claim costs for Thunder Bay city employees as more violence reported

Some front-line employees of the City of Thunder Bay are reporting more on-the-job injuries and officials at city hall say the rising costs aren't sustainable.

City paid out nearly $5.5M in claims in 2018, city manager says it's not sustainable

Thunder Bay City Hall.
The City of Thunder Bay is reporting increasing WSIB costs for city staff, including spikes in violence against paramedics and long-term care home staff. (Matt Prokopchuk/CBC)

Front-line employees of the City of Thunder Bay are reporting more on-the-job injuries and officials at city hall say the rising costs aren't sustainable.

A corporate safety report to city council on Monday showed that 2018 (statistics were calculated up to March 31, 2019) saw 250 claims by city employees approved by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) — the highest number in the last five years.

The report also said that 2018 was the highest for hours of lost time as a percentage of the total number of hours worked and incidents that resulted in lost time per 100 employees. That added up to the city paying out nearly $5.5 million in claims, city manager Norm Gale said.

Asked whether the city will continue to have the budget to cover those costs, Gale told councillors "that's questionable."

"WSIB costs including, but not limited to PTSD, we are concerned about," he said. "We need to work harder to get sufficient funding downstream to cover these costs."

The two departments where the number of injuries and reported incidents are rising the most significantly, the report said, are emergency services and community services. Additionally, the report stated that two types of injuries are increasing the most: employees being hit and those that are stress-related.

That due "in part to improved staff reporting within EMS and long-term care," the report said, adding that "staff are being encouraged to report whenever there is contact, regardless of the degree of injury (or lack thereof) from resident or patient violence."

"Similarly, the increase in exposure/stress injuries is the result of an increase in reporting incidents that may not have been documented in the past."

In 2018, the report said that there were nine incidents where Thunder Bay Transit employees suffered injuries, 11 incidents for paramedics and 28 for employees of the city-run Pioneer Ridge long term care home.

The city report said there are a number of initiatives underway to help mitigate workplace violence, including more training and an increased emphasis on encouraging employees to report any incidents.

"It's very significant," said Coun. Rebecca Johnson, referring to the increasing number of mental health-related injuries. "Again, it goes down to the prevention component of this and what are we doing to address that?"

City staff said the corporation's policy has been changed to better reflect employee wellness, including a full-time position dedicated to the workplace wellness program.