With 2018, our second century dawned. It was the first step on a new leg of our continued journey. As we move into that future, we see a landscape before us that is constantly changing. It presents fresh challenges we have only recently begun to encounter. But our resolve is strong. We are well-prepared for what lies ahead.
We do not face it alone. For one, our partners in the community will travel with us.
What’s more, we have 100 years of wisdom and experience that guide us and empower our decisions.
As with any journey, features of the landscape become clearer with each step, as time passes, and as the traveller learns more.
Asbestos, for example, was a substance long considered benign. It took some time to understand its lethal nature and, in that time, it killed Yukon workers. While our evolved understanding of this hazard helps protect workers now, it will tragically continue to take some of those who were exposed to it in the past away from their families and the community.
With this in mind, we must make every effort to ensure our understanding of workplace hazards continues to evolve, to recognize risks, both pre-existing and new, and take measures to prevent them as early as we can.
It’s in this spirit that we have come to understand not all injuries are physical, that the mental health of workers is every bit as important as that of their bodies. This is a significant challenge on the landscape before us, and it is one we recognized early and began to address over a decade ago.
As we continue our journey, we must mind the job, which is to say be mindful of our mental health while at work. Today, we are in the earliest stages of recognizing the many factors that contribute to psychological injury.
Anxiety. Stress. Violence. Harassment. Traumatic experiences. These are just some of the threats to workers’ mental health.
If the first century of workers’ compensation and workplace health and safety in Yukon was about the physical health of workers, this new one will certainly be about their mental health and preventing psychological injuries. We will carry our learnings forward because we now know that not all injuries are physical. While we may be well versed in broken bones, there is still much to learn about broken minds. One thing we know for certain–both can be mended.
Fortunately, we are well prepared for the approaching challenge. Our past successes will fuel our future efforts. And we are embracing change as we take footsteps into the future.
We are proud of our new strategic plan which will guide us. It is our road map. Introduced in 2018, the plan provides us with a clear vision of Yukon’s economy, workforce and culture through the next five years. It was developed with input from our staff and our valuable stakeholder partners, and it was informed by our history of experience.
We have a stable Compensation Fund. Delivering on a promise made four years ago, we have made sure that the money employers contribute to the workers’ compensation and occupational health and safety systems accurately represents the costs, and that the Fund is well-able to serve the needs of claimants for years to come.
We have strong and positive partnerships with stakeholder organizations in the community. Their input and insight inform the path of our journey and help us remain sensitive to the needs of our community.
We have an expanding workplace safety culture in Yukon that was established through a long history of marketing, enforcement, consultation and collaboration. Today, the territory’s employers and workers value and practise health and safety measures more effectively than ever before and we see constant improvement.
We have a claims system that is compassionate in its attention to workers and their families who suffer as a result of incidents in workplaces. We have safety officers who effectively balance support with enforcement in their dealings with employers and workers.
There is always room for improvement, of course. That is something that never changes, and we embrace it.
With this in mind we made tremendous strides in 2018. Our claims system became more efficient, with a focus on improving services overall to claimants. We established a strong risk management system that has enhanced our ability to navigate the landscape before us and deal with the challenges we meet. We improved our focus on the continuous review and improvement of our business processes to ensure they deliver on the needs of employers and workers.
The goal of our journey is to prevent disabilities and, ultimately, reach target zero. Zero worker injuries or fatalities. Zero broken bodies, minds, homes and communities as a result of workplace incidents.
Zero, to some, might sound like a lofty goal. It is certainly challenging. However, workplaces achieve it every year. While Yukon as a whole suffered three accepted workplace fatality claims in 2018, and more than 1000 accepted lost-time claims, most workplaces did not contribute to these numbers. Most workplaces in 2018 were injury free. Most Yukon workplaces successfully arrived at zero.
It’s something important to keep in mind as we all venture into this new century, this era of mentally healthy workplaces, of change and challenge: the successes of individual workplaces are in fact the shared successes of our community.
These successes are something to be proud of and aspire to as we journey together towards zero, towards a day when workplace injuries, illnesses and fatalities are things of myth.
On our journey, the spirit of safety is like a wind at our backs. We face a challenging landscape, but by employing our century of wisdom, knowledge and experience, and by continuously striving to improve, we shall overcome the terrain and achieve ever-greater successes built upon those of our past.