More deaths than ever to mourn

More than 950 workers killed on the job last year

For the sixth straight year, Canada’s workplace death toll has increased. On April 28, the National Day of Mourning, services and ceremonies across the country were held to mark the tragedies.

In 2003, 953 workers were killed on the job, up from 934 in 2002, according to the Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada.

The rising death toll comes despite a number of campaigns from governments, unions and workers’ compensation boards to reduce the number of work-related fatalities.

In Alberta, the Department of Human Resources and Employment has been working to raise awareness and reduce accidents in the workplace, including introducing a new health and safety code at the end of April. Yet, 127 workers were killed on the job in 2003, up from 101 in 2002. In addition, the fatality rate for 2004 is ahead of last year’s pace. “While overall injury rates declined last year, the number of work-related fatalities actually increased. That is just unacceptable,” said Clint Dunford, Human Resources and Employment Minister.

Labour groups used the Day of Mourning to point the finger of blame squarely at employers and government.

“Despite all its rhetoric and its ad campaigns, the government had failed to protect workers,” said Alberta Federation of Labour secretary treasurer Kerry Barrett. She said a lack of enforcement is to blame.

“Over the past decade, governments and employers have made bad choices that are costing workers their health and their lives,” said Canadian Labour Congress president Ken Georgetti. “They chose to relax health and safety regulations. They chose to cut resources needed for monitoring and enforcement.”

According to the CLC, 16,804 workers have been killed on the job in Canada since 1984 and 17,661,834 have been injured.

In a ceremony at Winnipeg’s legislative building there was a special focus on young worker injuries and fatalities. Workers Compensation Board chair Wally Fox-Decent was on hand to unveil a new ad campaign aimed at preventing workplace injuries by education young people about the importance of workplace health and safety.

“April 28 is not only a day to remember those who have died or been seriously injured at work, it is also a day for strengthening our commitment to workplace safety and education,” said Fox-Decent. “We need to work together to foster a culture of safety to prevent workplace deaths and injuries from happening in the first place.”

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