Dying for a Job?

So many people in this country are dying to find a job. One that will let them live a comfortable life, support themselves and contribute to supporting their family. Jobs are scarce, so when we find a good one, we are on top of the world! We all would want that feeling to last, but this is where reality sucks as the saying goes. The sad truth is that, in Canada, so many workers’ dreams get shattered every year due to workplace causes.
Most Canadians have no idea of what the real picture of our workplaces actually looks like. Let me paint that picture for you.
On average, each year, over 900 men and women leave their homes, go to work, but never come home. Approximately 85 of them will be young (15-24). They are killed before they finish their work day. The next time they are seen by their families, is to identify the body. Sounds morbid, horrible and gruesome, but as I said earlier, reality sucks!
Then again if you are fortunate enough, not to be killed at work, on average each year, 330,000 of you will be injured badly enough to have to miss time at work because of that injury. More than 30,000 of you will be between the ages of 15- 24.
On top of the immediate horrors of workplace injuries, we have tens of thousands of injured workers who are destined to live with chronic pain for months, years and in far too many cases, a lifetime.
Having laid out the terrible statistics, we need to ask the question WHY? How is it possible that in Canada, where we have some of the best H&S legislation and regulations in the world, do we still manage to kill and injure workers at such alarming rates?
It would be safe to say that if 900 Corporate CEOs or Politicians or Bay St. Executives were being killed each year because of their work and thousands were being injured and maimed, there would be a National Inquiry called in short order. Hearings would be held, thousands of witnesses would be called and at the end of it all, they would find the root cause and someone would be held accountable.
Why is it that there is no public outcry when working men and women are being killed and maimed in such astonishingly high numbers?
Is it because the numbers are spread across 10 provinces and 3 territories, so it becomes less evident? Is it because we don’t hear about it very much? Is it because it is expected that workers will die and get injured at work? We can speculate endlessly, but until we take the issue of workplace health and safety seriously, we will continue to kill and maim working Canadians in horrific numbers every year.
As someone who has spent decades dealing with health and safety in the workplace, I’ve reached some conclusions about workplaces deaths, injuries, the causes, consequences and solutions.
We know the statistics and we know the consequences are overwhelming for families of workers killed or seriously injured. What about the solutions?
Some would argue that the issue is complicated and the solutions are not easily found. My short answer to that is, BS!! The issue is not complicated. We are killing and injuring thousands of innocent people every year.
Over a 23 year period from 1993 to 2015 , 20,712 Canadian workers were killed on the job in Canada. 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. Corporations and government regulators need to be placing more emphasis on protecting workers than on protecting the interests and profits of the corporations. Rhetoric you say? No, once again, REALITY!!
We pass wonderful legislation, regulations and standards in Canada, but we lack the will to enforce them in case we interfere with an employer’s business plan. Killing and maiming people should not be a cost of doing business in this country. Government regulators at the federal and provincial/territorial levels can no longer simply watch the carnage in Canadian workplaces and do virtually nothing to stop it or at least reduce it.
I was told recently that the statistics are better than they used to be. No they are not, particularly for workplace deaths. In fact, in 2015, there was only a difference of 1 from 1993. During most of the years in-between, the numbers were actually higher. The workplace injury statistics on paper appear to have dropped substantially; however that too is deceiving, because recent evidence shows that employers, in an attempt to prevent their WCB premiums from going up, are convincing injured workers not to file WCB claims and finding make-work projects to keep them in the workplace. Also, more and more, employers are challenging workers’ claims and appeals to try and prevent their premiums from rising.
Workers Compensation as it was created in 1914, looks nothing like it was intended, which was to have compensation for workers injured on the job. This meant that workers would no longer have the right to sue negligent employers. Today, it is nothing short of an attack against workers, spearheaded by employers and their accomplices in crime, the Provinces/Territories and their Workers Compensation Boards. It is my opinion that in many cases, injured workers are actually seeing a violation of their human rights.
Although most health and safety laws fall under provincial jurisdiction as does Workers Compensation, the fact remains that nationwide, Canadian Workers are Dying for a Job. Many employers are getting away with killing and maiming thousands and the road to preventing so much of this is not being used. 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 the regulatory agencies are not committed to enforcing regulations. Their staffing levels are woefully low and the push back by employers and the lobbying for less regulation, has neutered any existing legislation that was designed to protect workers from death and injury.
It’s time that law makers, police forces and regulatory agencies wake up, do their jobs and help stop the killing and maiming of Canadian Workers. As of the writing of this article, 70 days in 2017 have passed. If past statistics are any indication, approximately 140 workers have already been killed in Canada, and will we kill 2-3 workers every day unless somebody starts to care.
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?
Join the fight to save lives. Show you care. Make your voice heard.

Bill Chedore
National Coordinator
Canadian Injured Workers Alliance

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