Posted: Tuesday, 7 April 2009
In 2007, according to the latest report from the Association of Workers' Compensation Boards of Canada, 1,055 people lost their lives at work. That's four people every work day. Dead because their workplace was not safe.
Dead because they got injured. Dead because they got cancer. Dead because they were attacked.
Four people every day who never come home again. Dead because their employer failed to ensure they were safe at work.
Over the last decade, the number of Canadians who die every year because of something that happened to them at work has been steadily growing. In 1998, the number stood at 809. In 2005, the number was 35.5% higher.
Why is this being allowed to continue? Why are employers not being called to account?
Twenty-five years ago, the Canadian Labour Congress declared April 28 a National Day of Mourning for workers killed or injured on the job to raise awareness of the thousands of workers whose lives were forever changed by injury and the hundreds who died every year. In 1990, Parliament passed the Workers Mourning Day Act to formally recognize April 28 as a "day of mourning" across Canada.
Today, April 28 is observed around the world as a day of remembrance and a day of action to improve workplace health and safety. Unions and workers are leading the way toward stronger laws that force employers to observe better workplace practises. In many countries, lives are being saved from needless ruin as employers comply and workplace deaths and injuries decline. Sadly, Canada is not one of those places.
Over the past 25 years, successive governments have pledged their support to workers and their unions. They announced new workplace health and safety laws and regulations - some of the best in the world. Unfortunately, they have failed to provide the resources needed to enforce those new laws. This is the reason why Canada's workplaces claim a growing number of lives every year: the laws are not enforced, so reckless employers are allowed to carry on without consequence.
Enough is enough! It's time to enforce the law and bring employers who kill to justice.
It's time for the provinces and territories to appoint special prosecutors to lay charges against employers when their actions cause death or serious injury. More inspectors must be hired to ensure employers comply with the law.
It's also time for all governments to enact new regulations that deal with known dangers in today's workplaces, including workplace violence, exposure to toxins and carcinogens, repetitive stress injuries and injuries caused by poor ergonomics, workplace harassment and stress.
Any workplace death or injury is preventable. Thousands of men and women, some as young as 15, have needlessly had their lives taken over the past 25 years by their employers. How many more of us have to be killed before governments finally take action?
This April 28, remember those whose lives have been taken. Mourn them. Think of the families and friends left behind. Think of the employers who got away with manslaughter and murder. Get angry. Be outraged. Then take action to force the lawmakers and the legislatures to change their ways.