Dying For A Job?
Insight In order to prevent Canadian employee injuries and fatalities, serious amendments are needed regarding how our workplace safety regulations are enforced.
Many people in this country are dying to find a job, one that will let them live a comfortable life. These people, however, may not have any idea about how safe and healthy their workplaces will be.
The sad truth is that every year in Canada, an average of 900 Canadians actually do die for a job, approximately 85 percent of whom are between the ages of 15 and 24. An average of 330,000 Canadians will be injured on the job each year, and will need to miss work because of injury. More than 30,000 of these injuries will be to workers between the ages of 15 and 24.
Canada has some of the best health and safety legislation and regulations in the world, so what can explain the alarming rates of worker death and injury?
As someone who has spent decades dealing with health and safety in the workplace, I’ve reached some conclusions about workplace deaths and injuries — the causes, consequences, and solutions.
Some would argue that the issue is complicated and the solutions are not easily found. My short response to that is that it is, in fact, not complicated. Between 1993 and 2015, nearly 21,000 Canadian workers were killed on the job. During the same period, 7,604,518 workers received injuries that caused them to lose time from work. Thousands of those lives could have been saved and hundreds of thousands of those workplace injuries could have been prevented. Billions of dollars in lost productivity and billions of dollars spent on health care could also have been saved.
Recently, I was told that the statistics are better than they used to be. Unfortunately, this is not true. In fact, in 2015 there was only a one fatality difference in comparison to 1993. During most of the years in between, the numbers were higher. The incidence of workplace injuries appears to have dropped substantially; however, that too is deceiving. Recent evidence shows that employers, in an attempt to prevent their Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) or Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) premiums from going up, are convincing injured workers not to file claims and giving employees make-work projects to keep them in the workplace.
Corporations and government regulators need to place more emphasis on protecting workers rather than protecting the interests and profits of corporations. While our country has strong legislation, regulations, and standards in place regarding workplace safety, we lack the means to enforce them, especially when they may directly interfere with a company’s business plan. Workplace injuries and fatalities should not be the cost of doing business in Canada, however.
At the moment, there is no real incentive for employers to clean up their act. They know that the chances of being caught as a negligent employer are low because regulatory agencies are not committed to enforcement. With regulatory agencies’ staffing levels woefully low and pushback coming from employers, including lobbying for less regulation, any existing legislation that was designed to protect workers from death and injury is being inadequately upheld and enforced.
It’s time that law makers, police forces, and regulatory agencies do their jobs to help stop the dangerous workplace conditions that Canadian workers face too frequently.
If past statistics hold true, approximately 180 to 200 workers have already been killed in Canada this year, and 2 to 3 more workers will die every day.
Will it be you, your brother, sister, father, mother, son, or daughter?
Who else will die for a job before the end of the year?