Saskatoon

Province announces strategy to reduce workplace fatalities

The province announced a new strategy Monday aimed at preventing workplace fatalities and serious injuries. The three-year strategy will focus on industries and occupations that have the greatest number of reported deaths and injuries.

Focus will be on asbestos exposure, vehicle crashes, firefighter cancer exposure and falls at work

The province has unveiled its Fatalities and Serious Injuries Strategy aimed at reducing workplace deaths. (CBC News)

The province announced a new strategy Monday aimed at preventing workplace fatalities and serious injuries.

The three-year strategy will focus on industries and occupations that have the greatest number of reported deaths and serious injuries. 

The four priority areas are asbestos exposure, work-related motor vehicle crashes, firefighter cancer exposure and falls from heights.

"We know that in our province we have an unacceptably high rate of fatalities and injuries," said Labour Relations and Workplace Safety Minister Don Morgan. 

Labour Relations and Workplace Safety Minister Don Morgan says the province has an unacceptably high rate of fatalities and injuries. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

The Fatalities and Serious Injuries Strategy is a product of WorkSafe Saskatchewan in partnership with the WCB and the Ministry of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety.

Morgan said the strategy will give officials the ability to target employers that have a higher than usual risk and improve safety awareness in an effort to reduce injuries on the job.

According to the Saskatchewan Workers' Compensation Board (WCB), between 2010 and 2018 there were 354 workers who died on, or as a result of their job.

And each year about 2,400 workers in the province are seriously injured on the job.

"The occupational health officers will know which employers in which industries are at greatest risk," Morgan said. "And they will focus their attention on them by doing more unannounced visits and working with them to try and develop a plan within each workplace."

Morgan said while asbestos is no longer used in buildings, workers are still being exposed to it when it is removed.

"What we're asking people to do on the asbestos risk is to look at what type of workers are now being exposed to asbestos."

When it comes to firefighters and exposure to cancer-causing agents, their breathing equipment is the first line of defence, said Regina Fire Chief Layne Jackson.

Jackson, who was consulted on the strategy, said technology and standards are always improving.

"So we always want to make sure that we're doing our best to come up to the most current practices that are in place."

 
Regina Fire Chief Layne Jackson said they will look at firefighter's breathing equipment to see what can be done to improve it. (CBC News)

WCB chair Gord Dobrowolsky said for the strategy to be successful, it needs the collaboration of a wide range of stakeholders.

"We're not going to completely eliminate workplace fatalities and serious injuries in Saskatchewan over the next three years but we are going to do our very best to ensure more workers in our province go home safely at the end of each workday," Dobrowolsky said.

The Saskatchewan Federation of Labour (SFL), which has been calling on the government to address workplace deaths, said the strategy a good first step.

"Working people were consulted throughout the process of developing the new strategy, and I truly believe the professionals at the Saskatchewan WCB really do want to address the crisis we are seeing in workplace deaths and injuries in this province," SFL President Lori Johb said in a news release.

"No worker should ever be killed or injured as a result of their job," said Johb, "We have a long way to go; it's our hope this strategy will point our province in the right direction."

WCB chair Gord Dobrowolsky said they consulted with a number of stakeholders in developing the strategy. (CBC News)

The SFL has a number of other recommendations it would like to see, including:

  • Publish all incident and investigation reports online.
  • Update and expand the Young Worker Readiness Certificate course, and move it from being online to being delivered and tested in person.
  • Expand rights to include the right to refuse unsafe work on behalf of someone else.

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