(TORONTO) – Today’s release by the Workplace Safety & Insurance Board (WSIB) of the latest statistics on workplace death, injuries and illnesses is fuelling new demands for progress and change.
Officially, the death toll now stands at 10,384 since 1979 when Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act began reporting. But the official numbers bear little in common with the actual figures of workers hurt on the job because they do not include the thousands of injuries, illnesses and deaths that go unreported every year.
In 2013, the WSIB says that 243 workers died and that there were 232,249 reported injuries. In the past 25 days alone, as we close in on the Day of Mourning, three more workers have died at Vale’s Copper Cliff smelter in Sudbury, a construction site in Ottawa and a plastics plant in Vaughan.
Despite the mounting evidence, employers and the provincial government balk at taking the actions necessary that would prevent more catastrophes. We all know what needs to be done, and it needs to happen now, before one more worker loses their life.
The OFL is calling for the long-overdue shift in approach to workplace hazards that embraces the “Precautionary Principle.” It was the very first recommendation from the final report of the SARS Commission and said that “action to reduce risk need not await scientific certainty.” There was urgency to the recommendation that the approach be adopted as a “guiding principle.” It has not.
Second, Ontario’s unwillingness to investigate and bring charges under the Criminal Code of Canada section known as Westray Bill, which holds employers criminally liable when their negligence causes the death or serious injury of employees, is deeply misguided.
Unless employers are held personally liable, they will continue to put profit ahead of the lives of their workers and the carnage will continue. This is the strongest deterrent we have. It is already the law. But justice is not being served.
“We are always fighting against the mindset of employers and their friends in government that profits are more important than workers’ lives and health. It’s a centuries’-old battle,” said OFL President Sid Ryan. “But employers had better duck for cover if they think we won’t expose each and every one of them who threaten the life or health of a worker. The pace is too slow and the casualties are too high.”
“Studies, reports, reviews, statistics, inquiries, inquest findings and commissions all point to real solutions and the actions necessary. It’s critical for the government to stop listening to the voices of denial and start taking real action,” says OFL Secretary Treasurer Nancy Hutchison. “We all know what the solutions are. Our message today: ‘Stop ignoring them.’ ”
MEDIA PLEASE NOTE: Day of Mourning events’ listings for Ontario can be found at www.whsc.on.ca. The OFL officers’ agenda for Day of Mourning events will be posted tomorrow.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION:
Sid Ryan, OFL President: 416-209-0066 or @SidRyan_OFL
Nancy Hutchison, OFL Secretary-Treasurer: 647-403-9799
Lynn Simmons, Communications Director (Acting): 416-578-3230
Download Day of Mourning Release (PDF)