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Mining records ‘significant drop' in lost-time WSIB injuries

But less-serious injuries continue to rise, and that’s concerning, said WSIB leader
WSIB president and CEO Jeffery Lang was a keynote speaker at the Workplace Safety North mining safety conference in Sudbury this week.

The number of lost-time accident claims from the mining industry has dropped in recent years, said Jeffery Lang, president and CEO of the Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB).

Lang was one of the keynote speakers at the opening day of the annual Workplace Safety North mining health and safety conference now underway in Sudbury.

A "lost time" claim happens when a worker suffers a work-related injury or sickness which results in the worker being off work past the day of the accident, loss of wages/earnings, or a permanent disability or impairment.

Lang also revealed that despite the drop in lost-time incidents, there has been an increase in the number "no lost-time" claims. Those are injuries or sickness where the worker has no time lost from work, other than on the day of accident, but where health care is required. The health-care costs resulting from the injury are paid by the WSIB.

"So in the mining sector, there's been a 30 per cent increase in 'no last-time claims.' So from 2020 to 2023, we went from about 1,000 claims to 1,300 claims. So that's not great." Lang told the conference.

"Good news is on the last-time frame side," he said.

"This sector was having some serious problems, two or three years ago.  In the last two years, they've come down from above 380 claims in 2021 to 280 claims last year. That's significant and these are lost-time claims, serious injuries.  And that's the lowest point they've been in four years," said Lang.

"So you have done an amazing job with serious issues," Lang added.

He said that workers suffering sprains and strains account for 30 per cent of lost-time injuries. He urged the industry leaders and health and safety representatives to be aware of that.

Lang said occupational disease is still an issue in the mining sector. He said WSIB processes about 400 claims a year for example in noise-induced hearing loss.

"We're doing a lot of work and research and we're going to continue to do so. That's an area where there's room for improvement," he said.

Lang added that in recent years, WSIB has made many technical changes that make it easier to get in touch and stay in touch, especially using the WSIB website.

"As many as you as many of you know, we've done a great job of generating paperwork over the years. Communicating with us was primarily through the mail. For the younger people in the crowd, you can turn to somebody older and ask what a fax machine is," Lang joked.

He said the days of mail and fax machines are over.

"We've been working hard to bring more of our services online. So you don't have to send another envelope, and you will not have to try to find a fax machine. Heck, you don't even have to call us anymore. As of two weeks ago, we now have online chat through your online security portal. So you know, we're trying to communicate with you the way you want to communicate with us."

Looking to the future, Lang said the mining sector will have to continue to stay vigilant especially in the next 10 years or so when the industry will have to bring in more skilled immigrant workers, just to keep up with production demands.

"English might be their second or third language," said Lang.

"We need to make sure we give you the tools to make sure those people have proper access to the health and safety and prevention education that's required to keep everybody safe," he said.

Len Gillis covers the mining industry as well as health care for

Len Gillis

About the Author: Len Gillis

Graduating from the Journalism program at Canadore College in the 1970s, Gillis has spent most of his career reporting on news events across Northern Ontario with several radio, television and newspaper companies. He also spent time as a hardrock miner.
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