Sharing news that SHCA members need to know
WCB holds 2021 average premium rate at 2020 rate
The Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) announced earlier this week that it will hold this year’s average employer premium rate at the 2020 rate of $1.17 and will cap industry level rates at 10 per cent. This board level hold is to provide a measure of economic relief to Saskatchewan businesses struggling with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Under the WCB’s rate model, the 2021 average required rate should have been $1.23 per hundred dollars of payroll without the board level hold. The increase was driven by a combination of factors, including the economic slowdown caused by COVID-19 and an increase in compensation and health care costs.
“Given the level of uncertainty surrounding Saskatchewan’s economy as a result of the pandemic, the WCB board proposed a hold for 2021,” said Minister responsible for the WCB Don Morgan. “By holding the rate at $1.17, the WCB will save employers approximately $13.4 million in 2021 premiums. This is in addition to approximately $1 million employers saved on interest and penalties in 2020.”
Premium rates are generally determined by two key factors – claims costs and payroll.
“We recognize the impact of the COVID-19 virus across the province. Payroll is down, as many businesses struggle to stay afloat,” said WCB CEO, Phil Germain. “This assistance from the WCB will benefit those employers. This is just another example of how we all – including workers, employers and government – work together to overcome the many challenges caused by the current pandemic and subsequent economic slowdown.”
Prior to the premium rate plateauing in 2019, the average premium rate had been steadily declining, in conjunction with an overall reduction in work-related illnesses and injuries. In fact, the current average premium rate is 43 per cent below the 17-year high of $2.05 in 2004. However, WCB officials advise the rate may rise in 2022 if payroll costs remain low while claims costs continue to rise.
“We’ve seen a tremendous collective effort in recent years by workers, employers, safety associations and stakeholders to bring down the number of workplace injuries in our province,” said WCB chair Gord Dobrowolsky. “We’re making significant progress. In 2019, for the fourth year in a row, 88 per cent of Saskatchewan employers reported zero injuries in their workplaces. As well, the workplace total injury rate in our province has dropped by over 50 per cent since 2008.”
While overall injury rates are down, the number of serious injuries continues to be a concern. In 2019, serious injuries accounted for 12 per cent of total workplace injuries in the province, but more than 80 per cent of compensation costs. The WCB is working with customers and stakeholders to innovate the WCB’s claims and injury prevention strategies. The development of the Fatalities and Serious Injuries Strategy in 2019 was the first major step toward reducing injuries and improving disability management and return to work in Saskatchewan. Find out more about the strategy at www.worksafesask.ca.
Employers can also play a significant role in keeping their premium rates down. Work-related injuries can be prevented by instituting a comprehensive workplace safety program. A solid disability management and return-to-work program will also help reduce costs and assist injured workers to recover and return to work safely and as soon as possible.
Employers can log into their secure WCB online account starting on Dec. 7, 2020 to view their 2021 industry premium rate, including their experience rating and certificate, if eligible. Employers who don’t have a secure WCB online account can sign up for one at www.wcbsask.com.
Employers, your WCB premium rate notice is going paperless
Effective Dec. 7, 2020, your 2021 WCB premium rate notice and certificate of achievement will only be available through your WCB online account.
The Saskatchewan WCB is going paperless because it is an environmentally sustainable approach to significantly reduce the amount of paper printed and mailed. Going paperless also allows for quick and easy access while keeping employer information secure.
You can get access to your 2021 premium rate notice by logging into your secure WCB online account. There you will be able to view and print your premium rate notice, experience rating letter and certificate of achievement, if eligible.
Your WCB online account also allows you to view claim reports, file your annual payroll report, view your statements, obtain clearances and access other helpful information.
To view this information online, you must be an administrator on your secure WCB online account or be an agent with access to view reports.
Re-Open Saskatchewan Training Subsidy
The Re-Open Saskatchewan Training Subsidy (RSTS) program has been launched in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The program is an employer-driven, short-term training program that provides eligible employers with financial support to train employees.
Funding to support training can help employers adjust to the impacts of the pandemic and safely align business activities with the re-opening phases of Saskatchewan’s economy.
The program is operated by the Saskatchewan Ministry of Immigration and Career Training.
Benefits of the subsidy:
- Training support through the RSTS program will ensure employers have access to training to maintain business activities while continuing to promote workplace safety and stimulate competitiveness without a financial burden;
- Employers select the trainee(s) and the training program;
- 100 per cent reimbursement to eligible employers for approved training;
- Approved employers will receive 33 per cent of the cost of training upon entering into a training agreement with the government. The remaining 67 per cent will be paid upon completion of final reporting and verification of actual expenditures; and
- The maximum payment is $10,000 to eligible employers for the RSTS program.
For information about the subsidy or to apply, visit www.saskatchewan.ca and search “RSTS.”
SHCA members will fall under the Transportation and Logistics section to qualify.
Canadian Construction Association and KPMG in Canada launch Digital maturity assessment tool to gauge innovation
In a new initiative to assist Canadian construction companies to gauge their level of construction innovation, the Canadian Construction Association (CCA) has joined forces with KPMG in Canada to launch the complimentary Digital maturity assessment tool for the construction industry.
Construction is rapidly evolving into a tech-savvy industry with the use of drones, automated vehicles and virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR). Advancing innovation is a top priority of CCA’s five-year strategic plan and vision to “Build a better Canada.”
New digital technologies, innovations and disruptive business models mean many construction organizations need to keep pace with the transformative changes required to drive growth, meet customer demands, increase productivity and attract the right digital talent to truly reap the benefits of the digital age.
With access to KPMG Canada’s proprietary online Digital maturity assessment tool, construction companies of all sizes can now confidentially assess their digital readiness in a few minutes.
“The need for digital transformation to stay competitive in construction has been heightened by the pandemic,” said Mary Van Buren, CCA president. “This online tool will especially aid small and medium-sized construction companies by providing a benchmark of their efforts and insight on areas of future focus.”
“We believe it’s vital for companies to assess where they are on their digital journey to ensure technology and business strategies are aligned and delivering return on investment,” said Lorne Burns, KPMG Canada’s national industry leader, Building, Construction and Real Estate. “COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of embracing digital technologies to inform strategic decision-making, build resilience, enhance competitiveness and protect asset value amid disruption and uncertainty. We’re thrilled to be joining forces with CCA on making our tool available to the construction industry.”
Teaming up with KPMG Canada, a report on the findings will also be published at CCA’s 2021 annual conference.
The KPMG Canada Digital maturity assessment tool can be accessed by visiting https://home.kpmg/ca/en/home.html.
When passing snowplows, it’s not a race – give some space
The Government of Saskatchewan wants to remind everyone this winter season that when passing snowplows, it’s not a race. Give some space.
Highway snowplow operators often work early mornings and late into the night, as long as it’s safe for them to be on the road. There are many passionate and dedicated people inside our snowplows and they do it to keep us safe.
“It’s important to remember these aren’t just highway workers in our plows, they’re someone’s family,” Highways Minister Joe Hargrave said. “They are the unsung heroes of highway safety, and they all deserve our thanks. So let’s make sure we do our part and give them the space they need to work and ensure they go home safely.”
“It’s important to remember these aren’t just highway workers in our plows, they’re someone’s family”– Highways Minister Joe Hargrave
Saskatchewan’s snowplows have blue and amber flashing lights. When these lights are on, it means the snowplow is performing winter duties and you should be careful. Winter duties include plowing, sanding, salting and inspecting roads. Some road bridge repairs also occur during the winter.
Here are some rules to keep in mind when passing slowplows on our highways:
- Treat snowplows like you would any emergency vehicle
- If they are pulled over on the side of the road and have their lights flashing, slow to 60 km/hr
- If the plow is driving and has its lights flashing, approach with caution and pass when safe to do so
- If the plow is clearing snow and visibility is low, be patient. Snowplows pull over every 10 to 15 kms to allow you to pass safely
Operators regularly inspect highways to determine if plowing, salting or sanding is needed to ensure safe driving conditions. They report conditions to the Highway Hotline, which publishes timely information on Saskatchewan road conditions.
Always check the Hotline before you travel by visiting www.saskatchewan.ca/highwayhotline or calling 511.
You can also find information related to provincial highways by following the Saskatchewan Highway Hotline on:
- Facebook – @SaskatchewanHighwayHotline
- Twitter – @SKGovHwyHotline
- Instagram – @skhwyhotline
Improvements to Fond du Lac Airport underway
Pre-construction work for safety improvements to the Fond Du Lac Airport is underway.
“Our government is committed to investing in the north and this includes air travel in northern Saskatchewan,” Highways Minister Joe Hargrave said. “Maintaining and improving infrastructure that is critical to services like air ambulance and firefighting is vital for those living in the north.”
The cost for construction, awarded to Saskatchewan-based SHCA member Whitford Construction, comes in at $14 million.
The project safety improvements include:
- Construction of turn pads at both ends of the runway
- Strengthening and re-surfacing of the runway, taxiway and apron
- Replacing existing low-intensity lighting with high-intensity LED lights
Rock crushing began in early November with construction scheduled for completion in the fall of 2021.
“This project is important, since it is essential for moving people to and from the community,” Fond Du Lac Chief Louie Mercredi said. “This has become much more urgent due to the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic. As such, further delays to this project may restrict landing and take-off weights while increasing a number of other costs associated with air transportation.”
The Government of Canada, through the Airports Capital Assistance Program, has provided $12.1 million in funding over three years for the project. The Government of Saskatchewan will fund the remaining cost totalling $1.9 million as well as the ongoing cost of operations and maintenance, averaging $215,000 a year.
The Government of Saskatchewan will improve more than 1,000 km of provincial highways this year, the first of its 10-year Growth Plan goal to build and upgrade 10,000 km of highways. Another $300 million in highways stimulus funds will be invested over the next two years in thin-membrane surface upgrades, passing lanes and improvements to municipal roads and airports.
The Government of Saskatchewan has invested more than $628 million in northern highways and airports since 2008, including $60.3 million this year.