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Sask. manufacturers say funding for workplace safety programs cut off

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Saskatchewan manufacturers say funding for workplace safety programs has been cut off by the Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB). The Manufacturers’ Safety Group believes it’s in retribution for not fully cooperating with a WCB audit.

Saskatchewan’s manufacturing sector has experienced a dramatic decrease in workplace injuries through workplace safety training. That effort received $1.4 million in annual funding from the Workers’ Compensation Board. The funding has been cut off in a dispute over a program audit.

Desira Rostad, the executive director for the Safety Association of Saskatchewan Manufacturers, said it will impact employees, employers, and their families because injury prevention is on hold with manufacturing in the four sectors.

The WCB wanted an accounting of how its $1.4 million in annual funding had been spent. Manufacturers claim they complied. They say problems arose when WCB also wanted to audit workplace safety programs that it had not paid for.

“We know that we had confidentiality agreements or agreements that we had to sign to get onto site with our manufacturers and so it was important to them that we did not share this information. Their processes, everything to them is an intellectual property and you have to build trust in order to work with your members,” Rostad said.

Saskatchewan’s Heavy Construction Association is intervening on behalf of manufactures who also belong to their organization.

“The concern that we have is we don’t want the government overreach to start spreading into the development of the safety standards. We believe that that is best delivered by the industry, dictated by the industry and dictated to the safety associations that those industries serve,” said Shantel Lipp.

Phil Zajac, Saskatchewan’s Buffalo Party leader, claims to have leaked information about a meeting attended by government officials.

“There was a large meeting that was held with the people from those different safety associations and they presented evidence that there was bullying,” he said.

In a written statement, the government said, “As the entity facilitating the funding of such safety associations, the WCB has a legal responsibility to ensure the funds collected and distributed to safety associations…are used for their intended purposes.”

The government may be considering a change in program delivery. It says the work if a safety association will continue in whatever form that might take.

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