Workplace Safety Must be Canada’s Bottom Line
OFL Statement on National Day of Mourning for Workers Killed or Injured on the Job – April 28, 2016
Thursday, April 28 is the labour movement’s most solemn day. Thousands of workers, friends and families of fallen workers will gather at ceremonies across Ontario to recognize the National Day of Mourning for Workers Killed or Injured on the Job. As we mourn for the dead, the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) will continue to fight for the living.
The OFL’s six-year-long campaign, “Kill a Worker, Go to Jail,” made history earlier this year, when Metron Construction Project Manager, Vadim Kazenelson, received Ontario’s first prison sentence for workplace negligence causing the deaths of four workers and the serious injury of a fifth. The sentence was the first of its kind in Ontario, since the Criminal Code of Canada was amended in response to the 1992 Westray Mine Disaster, to allow for the criminal conviction of negligent employers.
“Workers have been fighting for health and safety rights for centuries but we know that we won’t stop the carnage in the workplace unless employers come to realize that there will be serious personal consequences if they put workers’ lives in the line of danger,” said OFL President Chris Buckley. “No prison term or financial penalty can bring back the workers who died or undo the pain felt by their families, but we hope the threat of jail time will send a shiver down the spine of every employer and make them see accident prevention as an occupational priority.”
According to the latest statistics from Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB), 226 workers reportedly lost their lives in 2015 due to workplace tragedies or occupational disease. Roughly 230,000 Ontario workers are injured or made sick at work every year, thousands of others pass away years later due to resulting health complications, and still other cases, undoubtedly, go unreported or unacknowledged. It amounts to a workplace epidemic that has needlessly cost tens of thousands of lives and impacted literally millions of working families over the years.
This year, the OFL has joined the Canadian Labour Congress in calling for a total ban on asbestos. Every year, 145,000 Canadian workers are exposed to asbestos in their workplace and, tragically, over 2,000 are still being diagnosed with often fatal diseases, like mesothelioma and lung cancer. These startling figures have earned asbestos a reputation as the number one workplace killer, yet after banning the mining and export of asbestos in 2011, Canada continues to allow the importation of products containing asbestos.
“There is absolutely no justifiable reason to delay a full ban on asbestos. Indeed, Canadian lives are depending on it,” said Buckley. “It is time to start listening to the resounding scientific evidence, it is time to start listening to the tragic stories of the families of fallen workers, and it is time to make workplace health and safety a national priority.”
OFL Officers and staff will attend Day of Mourning Ceremonies in cities and towns across Ontario. The province’s labour unions, regional labour councils, injured workers’ groups, family members and allies will come together demand action – from our courts and from our governments – to ensure that every employee who heads off to work will return home safely to their family at the end of a workday.
“Canada has the opportunity to show the world we care about stopping the tragedy of asbestos and protecting the lives of every worker. We believe the National Day of Mourning on April 28 offers a tremendous opportunity for meaningful action to make workplace health and safety the bottom line for every employer,” said Buckley.
For a list of Day of Mourning events across Ontario, visit: http://canadianlabour.ca/event-calendar/all-events/ontario-day-mourning-events-2016