I am writing in response to MHA Paul Lane’s Aug. 11, 2018 letter to The Telegram, “Justice delayed, justice denied for injured workers.”
In Newfoundland and Labrador, injured workers are entitled to receive wage-loss and health-care benefits as prescribed under the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Act and Regulations. If a worker or employer is not satisfied with a decision on a claim, the first level of appeal is internal to WorkplaceNL (which administers the act). The independent Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Review Division then handles the second level of appeal. As well, should an injured worker or employer contact WorkplaceNL with new information, the case manager reviews that new information and makes a decision without it necessarily having to go through the appeals process.
Approximately 90 per cent of first-level appeals are addressed by WorkplaceNL within the 45 days mandated by the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Act. Some appeals are more complex and, in fairness to the injured worker and employer, may take more time to resolve. In response to ongoing challenges, our government is now in the process of changing the model to have more full-time Review Commissioners at the independent Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Review Division. This change will provide more stability in scheduling hearings and providing decisions on the second-level, external appeals.
A review of the legislation covering work-related post-traumatic stress disorder is now ongoing.
Within the past several months, the income replacement rate for injured workers was increased from 80 to 85 per cent of their pre-injury net (before tax) income. Additionally, WorkplaceNL modernized its mental stress policy to recognize that work-related mental stress issues may be caused by exposure to multiple traumatic events. The policy now includes events that are an inherent part of an occupation, such as first responders witnessing fatalities. A review of the legislation covering work-related post-traumatic stress disorder is now ongoing.
As well, our government amended the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Act to provide presumptive cancer coverage for the province’s career and volunteer firefighters.
After consultation with injury prevention partners, earlier this year WorkplaceNL and the Occupational Health and Safety Division of Service NL launched a five-year workplace injury prevention strategy. The strategy encourages collaboration with all workplace parties and safety partners to build a strong safety culture in Newfoundland and Labrador. As one example of this collaboration in action, I recently met with the FFAW-Unifor Industrial-Retail-Offshore Council to discuss workplace safety matters in fish processing plants throughout the province.
These changes in legislation, policy and our new workplace injury prevention strategy all represent more steps along our government’s path to help reduce the financial, emotional and physical impacts workplace incidents are having on injured workers, their families and their communities while balancing the need for a financially sustainable, employer-funded workplace injury system.
Minister responsible for WorkplaceNL