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St. Johns Theres an obvious way to reduce workers compensation pay outs says Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) health and safety rep Rob Wells:

Its called prevention of injuries.

Wells, who will present a brief to the Task Force on Workers Compensation this afternoon, says the lack of preventative programs and the lack of enforcement of health and safety laws are the prime reasons the system is financially stressed.

We believe the prevention of injuries is the paramount consideration in lowering workers compensation costs, says Wells. For instance back injuries, which rose 23 per cent between 1998 and 1999, are highly preventable when employers are required to make changes to the workplace and the procedures so as to reduce hazards.

If a back injury claim costs roughly $10,000, asks Wells, think of the millions of dollars the commission would save just by forcing employers to comply with back injury prevention programs.

Wells says we have to stop blaming individuals for their injuries and start investigating industries that produce multiple identical injuries each year.

Rather than call them accidents, we need to recognize them as the systematic mining of healthy human resources, says Wells. Workers compensation is being used as the reclamation of human bodies after their health has been mined, just as a strip mine pushes overburden back in the holes and covers them with trees after the inner riches have been exploited.

CUPE Newfoundland and Labradors brief to the task force recommends a zero tolerance for workplace injuries, and the adoption of the viewpoint that all injuries are preventable.

Wells will appear before the task force today at 4:00 p.m. at the Battery Hotel. Copies of the brief will be available at the hotel or by calling 753-0732.

For more information please contact Rob Wells at 902-860-0020 or 902-497-3006 (cell).