Posted: Wednesday, 28 April 2010
by Ken Georgetti, as published in the Edmonton Journal on April 28, 2010
Over the past 25 years, successive governments have pledged their support for workplace safety. They have regularly announced new health and safety laws and regulations for the workplace -- some of the best in the world.
Unfortunately, our governments have failed to provide the resources needed to enforce those new laws. The number of Canadian workers who die every year because of something that happened to them at work has been steadily growing.
In 1993, there were 758 fatalities in Canada and 25 years later, in 2008, there were 1,036 deaths. Of those, 166 were in Alberta.
We know that hundreds more deaths occur due to exposure to carcinogens and toxins in the workplace, but they are never identified or accepted as work-related by Workers' Compensation Boards.
The slogan for the CLC National Day of Mourning in 2010 is this: "Is today the day you die at work?" We are asking why it is that so many Canadians unjustly lose their lives.
We believe that Canada's workplaces claim a growing number of lives every year because the laws are not enforced and those employers who are reckless are allowed to carry on without consequence.
It's time for the federal government and the provincial and territorial governments to appoint special prosecutors to lay charges under the Criminal Code against employers when their actions cause death or serious injury. Governments must hire more inspectors to ensure that employers do comply with the law. Government regulators must be held accountable for a carnage that appears to be going unchecked.
We take some quiet time on April 28 to remember those who have lost their lives, or who have been injured or became ill, due to their work. Let's think of those who are closest to us -- our children, our spouses, our siblings, our parents, our best friends. Consider the role they play in our lives and the lives of our families. Then imagine their life being taken away. Every one of the 1,036 workers who died in 2008 had dreams, families and people who loved and continue to love and miss them.
But I am asking that we do more. We must link our love and concern to action. We owe it to the victims of workplace fatalities and to their families, friends and communities to work toward a time when no one loses his or her life on the job.
That means putting pressure on governments to rigorously enforce laws on the books meant to protect the health and safety of all Canadian workers.
Ken Georgetti, president, Canadian Labour Congress, Ottawa.