The Workers Compensation Board of Manitoba (WCB) is awarding eight grants totalling $1 million to various organizations and projects in and out of the province this year, to support innovation and research in occupational health and safety. The grants are an annual funding project through the WCB’s Research and Workplace Innovation Program (RWIP).
“The main purpose of it is to really increase our capacity, our knowledge and our ability to make workplaces safer, to enhance successful return to work and to help employers in the workplace in terms of meeting the mandate,” explained Alice Sayant, the WCB’s vice president of strategy and assessment services as well as the vice president in charge of RWIP. “The Board makes available a million dollars for projects that are connected to either workplace safety and health or compensation in some way.”
The Board announced this year’s grants on Feb. 23, while listing the recipients in its annual report for 2014. RWIP is awarding this year’s grants in three different areas – training and education, scientific research and special funding. Among the 2015 recipients:
- SAFE Work Manitoba – $300,000 to form and implement new industry-based safety associations;
- Study by the University of Manitoba and the St. Amant Research Centre in Winnipeg – $180,000 to research gaps in workplace knowledge transfer;
- Study by the University of Waterloo, Western University in London, Ontario and the Institute for Work & Health (IWH) in Toronto – $127,098 to research fatigue and back pain in Manitoba truck drivers; and
- Occupational Rehabilitation Group in Winnipeg – $89,580 to develop training seminars on mental health in the workplace, for the construction, manufacturing and service industries.
Grant recipients are selected via a lengthy screening process that lasts several months, Sayant said. After parties apply, their proposals each undergo a peer review, before an internal screening group of WCB senior management examines the top choices. Then the continuing applications go to a subcommittee of the WCB’s executive group, and then to a WCB committee that oversees the program. The remaining few proposals, typically between six and eight, go to the board of directors for final approval.
“It’s a pretty intensive process,” said Sayant.
RWIP was established in 2009, as a replacement for a similar previous program. Requested funding typically exceeds the funding available by a ratio of five to one, according to information from the WCB.
Sayant said that the program had been very successful, although not of all the results were easily measurable. “The grants are of all sorts,” she noted. “They go all the way from research-oriented grants that increase the body of knowledge, to very practical shop-floor kinds of grants.” While the latter grants have resulted in decreased injury rates in specific workplaces, “we’ve had others that we know contribute to the body of knowledge, strengthen the culture, but are harder to measure.”
The RWIP 2014 annual report also noted several past funded projects that had since been completed. These included projects through the University of Manitoba, the Centre for Education and Work in Winnipeg and IWH.
The report is available online at http://www.wcb.mb.ca/sites/default/files/resources/2770%20WCB%20RWIP%202014%20Annual%20Report%20Web.pdf.