'It's quite simple, really – if you kill a worker, you go to jail'
The United Steelworkers union (USW) has joined the chorus of voices demanding answers in the wake of the tragic crane collapse that claimed the lives of five workers in Kelowna, British Columbia, back in July 2021.
WorkSafeBC concluded its investigation earlier this month, but concerns have been raised over the decision not to make the report available to the public.
"There are a lot of issues that resulted from this crane catastrophe, and it's been two years and the public really has no answers as to what occurred," says a frustrated Ed Kent, USW health, safety and environment coordinator for Western Canada. Kent says he wants to ensure transparency and accountability in the handling of the investigation.
"The families of the victims and the public deserve to know what happened and if any criminal elements were present. If there were such elements, there needs to be accountability. If there weren't, then we need to know what happened, so tragic accidents can be prevented in the future," says Kent.
In a press release, WorkSafeBC says it consulted with Kelowna RCMP and decided not to release the report publicly so that it would not jeopardize the criminal investigation. WorkSafeBC says, "the criminal investigation into this incident is extensive and complex, and as such, it is anticipated that this investigation will remain ongoing for an extended period."
"We're just concerned that the investigation is being done properly, thoroughly, and with the lens of the Westray law in focus," says Kent, who adds, "I find it interesting WorkSafe has completed theirs and the RCMP haven't completed theirs."
The USW's concerns extend beyond this specific incident, as the union seeks to address the broader issue of workplace safety across Canada. With approximately 1,000 workers losing their lives each year in work-related incidents, the USW's national campaign, ‘Stop the Killing, Enforce the Law,’ aims to hold corporations accountable by enforcing the 2004 Westray Law, which introduced amendments to the Criminal Code of Canada.
"Our union has been fighting long and hard to have workplace fatalities and injuries investigated as criminal events, but convictions are too few and far between. It's quite simple, really – if you kill a worker, you go to jail," declares Kent, emphasizing the urgent need for stricter consequences when negligence leads to fatal accidents.
The lack of answers in the Kelowna crane collapse has taken a toll on the affected families, and Kent says he sympathizes with them, "it's a tragedy that occurred that day. But it continues to be a tragedy for them because they don't have any answers."
As the demand for answers grows louder, the pressure mounts on authorities to reconsider their decision and release the WorkSafeBC investigation report. The public's right to information, the pursuit of justice, and the prevention of future tragedies are at the forefront of this plea. The USW says it remains committed to ensuring transparency and accountability in workplace safety, urging authorities to prioritize the release of the report and address the systemic issues that perpetuate avoidable accidents.