Winter Weather Injuries on the Rise for Canadian Workers

Workplace injuries related to snow, sleet, freezing rain and ice increased significantly this past winter, according to data released by the Workers’ Compensation Board of Nova Scotia (WCB).

Between December 2007 and March 2008, 1,037 workplace injuries were attributed to winter weather – a 64 percent jump from last year and twice as many injuries as the winter before that. Of those injuries, 311 were serious enough for workers to lose time from their jobs.

“There’s no question that winter weather presents safety challenges, but that’s no excuse for workplace injuries,” says Stuart Maclean, WCB vice president of service delivery. “There is no such thing as a workplace ‘accident’. All injuries are avoidable with the proper training and commitment.”

While slips and falls on ice and motor vehicle accidents in poor driving conditions account for many weather-related injuries, others are musculoskeletal. Those injuries, caused by activities like moving heavy, wet snow, represent part of the 60 percent of all lost-work-time injuries that affect the skeleton, muscles and tissues. Musculoskeletal injuries remove thousands of Nova Scotians from the work force every year, with untold impact on professional and personal lives.

“Changing the way work is designed is the key to preventing musculoskeletal injuries,” says MacLean. “As we prepare for the summer, when we know workplace injuries overall tend to peak, it’s important to think about the way work is designed and carried out. Inside or out, whatever work we’re doing, it’s about thinking from a mindset of safe work design.”

The cost of musculoskeletal injuries to the Nova Scotia industry is estimated between $100 million and $1 billion per year in direct and indirect costs, including lost productivity, replacing workers, overtime and training, according to the WCB.

As a result, the organization is undertaking an aggressive campaign for safe work design. More information can be found in the guide, Sprain and Strains: Preventing musculoskeletal injury through workplace design, available online at http://www.wcb.ns.ca.

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