Saskatoon

Saskatchewan workplace fatalities almost double in 2018

The Saskatchewan Federation of Labour wants an emergency meeting with the government after workplace fatalities almost doubled from last year.

47 workplace deaths so far this year, 20 more than all of 2017

Minister of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety Don Morgan says the number of workplace fatalities in 2018 is troubling. (CBC)

The number of workplace fatalities in Saskatchewan has almost doubled from last year.

Those alarming statistics have the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour (SFL) calling on the provincial government to hold an emergency meeting to develop a strategy to protect workers.

"We need a comprehensive worker fatalities crisis strategy in Saskatchewan," SFL president Lori Johb, who has offered to host such a meeting, said in a news release.

Saskatchewan Federation of Labour president Lori Johb wants the government o hold an emergency meeting on workplace safety. (Submitted by Lori Johb)

So far this year there have been 47 workplace fatalities. That's almost double the 27 deaths in 2017.

Over the last 10 years the number of workplace fatalities has been trending downward until this year.

"It's troubling," said Don Morgan, Minister of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety. "We usually have in the 30s (work fatalities) and the 30s is far too high for a province the size of ours. We should be far less."

Bizarrely enough one of the fatalities we had was our deputy minister (Richard Murray), who had a heart attack and died at work. So it's a really rough time.- Don Morgan, Minister of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety

Of the 47 workplace deaths, six came in the Humboldt bus tragedy.

"But even if you took those out it is still an increase and it is unacceptable," Morgan said.

"We know it is surprising and we don't have any answers for it, but some of the other provinces are up as well.

"Usually most years we see a decline and it is troubling when it goes up."

Another workplace death hit close to home for Morgan.

"Bizarrely enough, one of the fatalities we had was our deputy minister (Richard Murray), who had a heart attack and died at work. So it's a really rough time."

Occupational Health and Safety has issued two stop-work orders at a worksite in Leduc where a man died in a fall on Monday. (Government of Alberta)

The SFL said the province can do a few things right away to create a safer work environment, including:

  • Begin a widespread public awareness campaign to inform Saskatchewan people of the current worker fatalities crisis, and educate workers on their three fundamental occupational health and safety rights: the right to know, the right to participate, and the right to refuse;
  • Commit to publishing all incident reports in an accessible online format;
  • Commit to publishing all investigation reports in an accessible online format, similar to the process in Alberta.

Morgan said the province continues to work with employers and employees to drive down the number of workplace deaths.

He has instructed Occupational Health and Safety officials to develop a targeted strategy to make for safer workplace.

"I am prepared to sit down and talk to anybody anytime who wants to have a coffee or a lunch or breakfast sometime to see whether anybody's got some things that would be beneficial to us."