By Susan Bradley
Twenty years ago, Nova Scotia’s trucking industry was grappling with increasing injury rates and rising Workers Compensation premiums. Spurred by the high human and economic costs, the Regional Industry Training Committee (RITC) for the trucking industry, headed by a volunteer Board of Directors, began discussions with trucking companies and occupational health and safety experts to try to reduce the trend.
The most effective solution was to form an industry-led association that would provide leadership, offer quality, industry-specific workplace health and safety programs, safety audits and ongoing communication and support for the trucking industry. The goal of the association was to assist the membership in reducing workplace injuries and fatalities.
In 1999, through an Order in Council in the provincial legislature, then headed by Labour Minister Ron Russell, the Nova Scotia Trucking Safety Association (NSTSA) was incorporated. Led by a volunteer Board of Directors, made up of trucking industry leaders, it is funded by a small levy collected on WCB premiums paid to the Workers Compensation Board of Nova Scotia, by companies in the following classification codes: 4561 General Trucking, 4562 Moving & Storage, 4563 Bulk Liquid, 4564 Dry Bulk and 4569 Trucking Other. And the Nova Scotia Trucking Safety Association was formed! The levy is what NSTSA uses to develop and deliver industry specific materials and services at no, or low, cost to the membership.
Executive Director Linda Corkum has been part of the association since 2004. She has watched the injury rate decline overtime, something she says can be attributed to the education, training programs we offer as well as the safety audits the members have undergone.
“Our goal is to increase through education and training the number of employees committed to workplace health and safety and to the safety of others when no one is watching.” Safety is about protecting our greatest asset: our employees, she says. “It’s a good feeling. We strengthen the industry by keeping our people safe.”
The association is very proactive in the types of services and program it offers to assist the ever-changing needs of the industry. “We have become a resource centre for anything related to occupational health and safety in trucking including mental health and wellness. We are a one-stop shop,” Corkum says. “The latest figures show that over the last five years, the numbers of injuries have decreased by 25% and the time-loss claims for our member companies have dropped by 56%. So, the non-profit association takes its programs on the road, offering training in different parts of the province and charging a minimal rate for cost recovery.
Most training is offered between September and May to accommodate the industry’s busy summer season.
In an aging workforce – the average age is 55 – it is important to protect the health of employees, Corkum notes. Another benefit of the training programs is bringing people who work in trucking together. “When you bring people together, they talk about what they’ve learned and will exchange ideas and tips about safety practices,” Corkum says. Feedback from our course surveys strongly states that the preferred method of our training is in a classroom setting, she says.
However, we know that many companies are moving towards online training and as a training resource centre, we too, are moving in that direction for some of our programs. We will continue to offer the in-class training as well as that’s what our industry prefers, she says.
Corkum says strains and sprains are the most common causes of injuries largely due to improper lifting or over extension. The most common area of injury is to the back followed by injuries to the shoulders and ankles. All of which are preventable. The second most common causes are slips, trips and falls, generally occurring when truckers are entering and exiting their vehicles. Wearing non-slip footwear, using three points of contact when entering and exiting their cabs can help eliminate these serious injuries, Corkum says.
“The average time a worker is off work as a result of a workplace injury is eight weeks and the trend is increasing,” she says.
We know that although a worker has sustained a physical injury, there are also psychological impacts. Recovering from the physical injury may be successful, however, the psychological component of the injury may not be and in some cases, remains untreated.
This is one of the reasons why we invested in having facilitators trained to by the Mental Health Commission of Canada to provide “The Working Mind” program. It has been amazing to see how these sessions have helped those who have attended share how their mental health has been impacted in these group sessions, Corkum says, adding the stigma around mental health is huge and we have a role to play in helping to remove that stigma. Recently, to help combat injuries, the association developed a cargo/load securement program in 2018. It was officially launched in 2019 and attendance is at capacity at each session.
“We introduced Frank and Shifty. Frank does things the right way even when no one is watching both at home and at work. However, Shifty does things the wrong way even when someone is watching. We use these two characters during the training to drive home the importance of doing things the right way every time,” Corkum says. The cargo/load securement program is for anyone who loads ½ ton; ¾ ton trucks, cube vans, tractor trailers, etc. It is a hands-on program. Even members of the general public would gain knowledge into properly loading their vehicles so the purchases/items do not fly out of the trunk or back of their truck when driving down the highway. Corkum says the feedback on the content of this program has been excellent and what’s more important is the participants remember Frank and Shifty.
We continue to listen to our industry when creating programs, she says. Members tell us to “keep it simple and easy to remember and understand” when developing programs and awareness campaigns and we do. With the shortage of workers in our industry, there is no time like the present to educate, communicate and train the people in our industry. They are our greatest asset.”
Safety Certified = Rebates for Trucking Companies
And safety pays big dividends.
NSTSA has been conducting safety audits for our members since the beginning. We now have additional trainers and safety auditors all of whom provide their expertise and knowledge to our membership, Corkum says. Our customer service survey reports indicate 98 % customer satisfaction. We appreciate feedback to ensure continuous improvement. “Our Safety Certified Accreditation program (Practice Incentive Program) in partnership with the WCB has returned to the trucking companies who have participated in the program, a total of over $1,755,000 since the program began in 2013,” Corkum says.
“It is the easiest way to keep our people working safely and overall saves money. And remember, when someone is hurt and is unable to work, it takes much time and effort to find someone to replace the injured worker while recovering from the injury plus insurance premiums including workers compensation premiums go up when there are injuries.” In addition, in order to bid on government tenders and contracts, trucking companies must be safety certified. Each year, a few more businesses participate in our programs and services. Investing in safety is a good business decision, Corkum said. Through the Practice Incentive Program, rebate amounts vary based on the WCB premiums the company paid during the eligibility period i.e. previous calendar year. The rebate amounts are based on the following scale:
• 5% rebate for companies with premiums of $10,000 and above
• $500 rebate for companies with premiums between $5,0001 and $9,999
• 10% rebate for companies with premiums of $5,000 or less
The WCB of N.S. determines which employers meet with rebate criteria. For eligible employers, the rebate is issued automatically, no paperwork is required, no participation fee is collected, and no red tape must be cut, it’s that easy. Safety certification means a company’s operations have been evaluated by a safety auditor on site and in person, Corkum says. We understand that one size does not fit all. Our audits are designed to assess all operations, regardless of scale and size. Our auditors assess everything from a one-person operation to a multi-location workplace. We’ve seen it all. Safety certification demonstrates a commitment and an investment in people.
November 2 Gala Dinner
Celebrates Safety Champions and 20 Years…
To celebrate the NSTSA’s 20th anniversary, a gala evening has been planned for Nov. 2 at The Westin Hotel in Halifax. The theme is Camo and Chrome, something that is sure to appeal to those who work in the trucking industry, Corkum says. Among the evening’s events, are NSTSA’s annual safety awards given out to those individuals and organizations whose efforts support workplace safety while maintaining their safety accreditation. The Safety Excellence Awards are presented every year to industry safety champions. Corkum says, “there will be individuals in attendance who have participated in our programs since the association’s beginnings in 1999. It will truly be an evening of celebration”.
Some of the categories include Professional Safe Driver of the Year Award, OHS Safety Representative of the Year, Community Spirit and Safety Champion of the Year. Our guest speaker for this event is professional driver, David Henry. David will take us through the twists and turns of his life. He has survived multiple life changing experiences. This is a compelling story of a man who has battled back from head injuries and mental health issues who celebrates life every day, Corkum says. David’s story, we expect, will help others in the industry to speak up and share their story. Also, the proceeds from the auction held after the dinner will go towards assisting members with resources for mental health. This will be the official launch.
For more information about the Nova Scotia Trucking Safety Association and/or to register for our Gala event on November 2, 2019, visit nstsa.ca.