New WorkSafeBC statistics show 2009 as the year work-related disease over took traumatic injuries as the leading cause of work-related deaths in British Columbia.
Traumatic injuries causing death have decreased 68 per cent since 1990 as the number of occupational disease related deaths, mainly from exposure to asbestos, continues to increase. Since the health effects of asbestos can take decades to manifest, the higher disease mortality is due to exposures that occurred decades ago.
Tracy Ford, co-founder of Asbestos-related Research, Education and Advocacy (AREA) Fund, knows firsthand the tough realities of a father being diagnosed with a work-related terminal disease. In 2007, Dave Ford was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a terminal cancer of the lining of the lung resulting from exposure to asbestos at his work prior to 1990. He died 18 months later.
“My Dad, Dave, was an electrician in Powell River and loved his job. He always put safety first. If he had known about the dangers of asbestos and which products contained asbestos he would have taken precautions," said Ford. "When he retired he expected to have many healthy years ahead of him.”
Last year, asbestos related diseases resulted in 77 deaths in B.C. — 18 more than in 2013. In total, fatalities resulting from occupational disease accounted for more than one-half (57 per cent) of all work-related deaths. In 2014, one person died every five days from a work-related disease.
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