TORONTO, Oct. 29, 2014 /CNW/ - One hundred years ago, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) opened its doors and began serving the workers and employers of Ontario, handling its first claim in January 1915. The WSIB is marking this significant milestone by launching a 100th anniversary website www.wsib100.ca, which features historic facts, images and a timeline of how the WSIB came to be.
"We are proud to have served Ontarians for the past 100 years and look forward to the next 100," said Elizabeth Witmer, Chair of the WSIB. "We are entering our second century of service as a more responsive and accountable organization, offering faster and better care and support for ill and injured workers than ever before."
The WSIB is continuing to evolve to better serve the needs of the province's workers and employers. Innovations in return to work and recovery programs have seen 92 per cent of injured workers returning to work after one year with no wage loss.
"Decisions for workers are now made more quickly than before. In fact, 92 per cent of decisions on claims are made within two weeks versus 65 per cent in 2008. In addition, more than 300 return to work staff made over 26,000 visits to help injured workers return to work last year alone. Workers are also now getting on-site help to get back on the job, as well as quicker access to quality healthcare," said Witmer.
"Employers, meanwhile, are seeing vastly improved customer responsiveness through online services that meet their needs 24-7," Witmer added. "And our return to work innovations have resulted in more than two million fewer productive days lost to our economy than just a few years ago."
Witmer said "the WSIB remains strongly committed to healthy and safe workplaces and to a system that is fair to all workplace parties. With the support of its system partners, the WSIB can achieve these goals."
In addition to launching the website, the WSIB will tweet facts and photos (follow @wsib) to illustrate its history — a past it is building on to become the best workplace compensation system in North America.
WSIB: A Century of Serving Ontario – MEDIA BACKGROUNDER
About the WSIB
The Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) of Ontario, formerly known as the Workers' Compensation Board (WCB), is one of the largest workplace insurers in North America. Established in 1914 as an independent trust agency, the WSIB administers compensation and no-fault insurance for Ontario workplaces. The WSIB is committed to delivering fast, accessible service and benefits at a fair price. The WSIB currently provides coverage to more than five million workers and over 290,000 employers.
In the 19th century, at the dawn of the industrial revolution, workers endured physical labour and dangerous working conditions in workplaces such as factories, mines, railways and forests. Death and injury were an accepted part of the job if it meant the promise of better lives for workers' families.
By the early 1900s, industrial expansion was reaching a peak and an alarming number of deaths and injuries were occurring in Canada's workplaces. As documented in a 1915 Maclean's article, approximately 40-50 workers in Ontario were injured on a daily basis and five workers were killed every week.
It was apparent that stricter laws were needed in industries where workers operated hazardous machinery. Pressure was mounting from workers and employers, and provincial governments started turning their attention to the issue of working conditions.
In 1910, Ontario's Premier, James Pliny Whitney, appointed Sir William Ralph Meredith as Royal Commissioner to investigate workers' compensation and frame a suitable law for our province. Sir Meredith was an esteemed lawyer and politician and Chief Justice of the Ontario Supreme Court. Working under a guiding principle of "justice with humanity", he held public hearings on workers' compensation and he studied other jurisdictions around the world. Part of his review included Great Britain's Workmen's Compensation Act, which was passed in 1897 and legislation across the United States.
In his final report to the Ontario Government in 1913, Sir Meredith laid out the foundation for a no-fault insurance model designed to protect workers and employers alike. The system was to be funded entirely by employers, publicly-administered and compulsory, with the exception of a few large enterprises. Known as "the historic compromise" – it was a solution whereby workers gave up the right to sue their employers for guaranteed protection from loss of income, regardless of fault.
On May 1, 1914, the Workmen's Compensation Act received royal assent and the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) was formed – under the original name "Workmen's Compensation Board" (WCB). It was the first of its kind in Canada, and other provinces would soon follow.
Today's economic and industrial landscape is vastly different from earlier days. But through the decades the WSIB has continuously evolved to better serve the workers and employers of Ontario. As the WSIB celebrates its first 100 years, it will continue to adapt to meet the needs of an ever-changing workforce while remaining grounded in the principles established by Sir William Meredith.
- Ontario's workplaces are getting safer
- There were 41,987 lost time claims in 2013, compared to 50,667 in 2009
- Decisions on claims are being made faster
- In 2013, 92% of decisions on claims were made within two weeks, compared to 65% in 2008
- Workers are now getting on-site assistance to help them return to work
- Number of workplace visits by WSIB return to work staff reached 26,000 in 2013
- Injured workers are receiving more specialized and timely medical care
- 33% of injured workers were involved in integrated health care programs in 2013, compared to 17% in 2008
- The number of workers not back at work after one year has dropped by half
- Only 4% on workers were still on benefits after one year in 2013, compared to 9% in 2009
SOURCE: Workplace Safety & Insurance Board
For further information: Christine Arnott, WSIB Media Relations, 416-344-4202, [email protected]