The Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) has confirmed 22 lives have been lost in workplaces around the province as of Oct. 31. This is less than the 31 in 2016, 32 in 2015 and 39 in 2014.
“But this is not about a number,” said Phil Germain, vice-president, prevention and employer services. “These are fathers and mothers, sisters, brothers, parents and children whose lives have been cut short and the impact to families and their communities is forever life altering.”
Twelve of the fatalities were due to occupational disease, while four were due to motor vehicle crash and another four were classified as “traumatic.” The remaining two fatalities were classified as “other.”
“We’ve partnered on a distracted driving program which has been in place for several years but more needs to be done,” said Germain. “With occupational diseases, some fatalities are related to old exposures to asbestos, but we firmly believe there are many workers today who may be exposed to asbestos during renovation projects. For this reason, we are working with partners to create awareness and improve training for employers and workers who may come into contact with asbestos.”
Germain said that while these efforts are having an impact, clearly we must do more. It is not acceptable for anyone to be injured on the job let alone be killed while working, he said.
“We’ve seen a steady decline in the number of injury claims over the past 10 years,” Germain said. “However, the number of fatalities in our province remains unacceptable. This is something that we are actively analyzing with our partners to better understand how it can be addressed and change this cycle of unnecessary and tragic loss of life in our province.”
In 2015, Saskatchewan had the fifth highest number of fatalities in the country. Despite increases in prevention and safety training as well as intervention and safety promotional campaigns throughout the province, the workplace fatality rate remains high.
WorkSafe Saskatchewan, the WCB’s injury prevention partnership with the Ministry of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety and the WCB’s prevention department are working with employers in higher risk industries to address the issue and put preventative measures in place as part of the Priority Employers program. However, putting an end to workplace injuries and fatalities requires a systemic view and partnering at all levels, the WCB said.
“At the end of the day, the job of keeping our workplaces safe is something that every single one of us shares a responsibility in,” Germain said. “For example, failing to invest in strong safety programs and adhere to preventative measures such as regulated personal protective equipment puts all of us at risk. No life is worth that.”