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Workwell to Rebrand: No Premium Surcharges in 2013

Regular readers of our blogs and updates may recall that the Ontario Government introduced Bill 160 on March 3, 2011, which proposed a number of sweeping changes to the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and the Workplace Safety and Insurance (WSIA).  In our March 24, 2011 Update, we summarized some of the more significant proposed changes.  Bill 160 became law on June 1, 2011 and so introduced a number of amendments to the OHSA and WSIA.

One of the proposed changes that became law was the transition of the WSIB’s prevention function to the Ministry of Labour.  As we noted in our Update, Bill 160 left in place the section in the WSIA which provides the jurisdiction to continue the Workwell program, though its prognosis was unknown as a result of the transition.

As many employers will know, the Workwell program is apparently continuing post-Bill 160.  The WSIB and Ministry of Labour are cooperating and coordinating efforts instead of scrapping the program.

No Premium Surcharges in 2013

George Gritziotis, the newly appointed Chief Prevention Officer, recently announced informally that the WSIB would not be assessing penalties (premium surcharges) after second Workwell audit failures in 2013.  We have made further enquiries and uncovered the following:

  1. Henceforth “Workwell Audits” will be known as “Health and Safety Performance Reviews”.
  2. The broad-spectrum audit format will not be employed for new reviews.  Instead, new reviews will be conducted exclusively using a Risk Management Plan model (which was in use before but not exclusively), targeting reviews to areas of concern within an organization and working outward if necessary.
  3. Discretion to apply premium surcharges remains, however:
    • Premium surcharges will not be applied to Health and Safety Performance Reviews to commence in 2013.
    • Audits which commenced prior to 2013 will continue on their current track.  However, if an organization fails at the second audit, instead of assessing premium surcharges the organization will be streamed into the new Risk Management Plan model to target and improve more effectively.

A Grain of Salt

We expect the WSIB will be updating its website soon to confirm and clarify this announcement.  Until then, employers should assume status quo.  We would also remind employers that:

  • Employers that fail to cooperate with the review process may still potentially be guilty of an offence under the WSIA.
  • Employers that repeatedly fail the review process and who suffer a workplace accident may be hard-pressed to prove due diligence.

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