Workplace deaths unacceptable, says construction executive

Deaths in the workplace are “100 per cent” preventable with safety training, according to the executive director of Mainland Nova Scotia Building and Construction Trades Council responding to the death of a Lower Sackville man last week.

Alan Fraser, 21, fell to his death last week

Deaths in the workplace are “100 per cent” preventable with safety training, says the executive director of the Mainland Nova Scotia Building and Construction Trades Council responding to the death of a Lower Sackville man last week.

Advocates in the construction industry are calling for the Nova Scotia government to establish an ombudsman so whistleblowers can come forward without fear of losing their jobs.

Brad Smith told CBC's Information Morning no one working more than three metres off the ground should be on a worksite without proper training and all workers should finish a fall-safety training session.

Alan Fraser, 21, died after falling six storeys at a construction site on Greenpark Close on Nov. 7, making the twenty-eighth workplace fatality in 2013.

Smith said that number is too high.

“We should have zero injuries. All of these things are 100 per cent preventablend so we should be very concerned because the numbers aren’t tracking well for Nova Scotia and they’ve been consistently high. We need to recognize that that has to be fixed. It’s a fixable issue,” he said.

Safety culture

Smith blamed the numbers on the safety culture in Nova Scotia.

Alan Fraser, 21, died after falling six storeys at a Clayton Park construction site. (Submitted by Fraser family)

Andrew Church, an occupational health, safety and environmental officer for Nova Scotia Community College, said​ young construction workers often don’t want to risk their pay cheques by speaking up about safety.

"They can say no, but perhaps you might feel some peer pressure or you might want to please your new employer," he said.

Smith said the province needs more workplace safety investigators to perform frequent random safety checks.

“If they think they may, and again this is not everyone this would be a minority of them, if somebody thinks they can get away with it and save some money on this then there has to be some consequence to that,” he said.

Smith estimates there are 11,000 people working in building trades in the province.

The Department of Labour is still investigating Fraser's death.

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