WorkSafeBC exec says asbestos disease still top concern for B.C. workers

VANCOUVER — The effects of long years of exposure to asbestos is still one of the biggest challenges faced by British Columbia’s workers today, and it is expected to continue to be a problem in this decade.
This was according to Donna Wilson, vice-president for industrial service and sustainability for WorkSafeBC, the province’s workers’ compensation board. [check out WorkSafeBC’s asbestos resource site]

Wilson spoke at the opening session of the 17th Annual Western Conference on Safety, hosted by the Pacific Safety Centre of Richmond, B.C.

The WorkSafeBC executive also cited motor vehicle incidents and falls from height as the other two major causes of worker injuries, illnesses and fatalities in the province today.

Wilson noted, however, that over the last 10 years, B.C. has seen significant improvements to its health and safety performance, with a 28 per cent overall decrease in injury rate and a 16 per cent reduction in the number of serious injuries.

“But while the numbers tell us we’re starting to see improvements, we cannot be complacent,” Wilson said.

Last year alone, 142 workers were killed while on the job, she added.

“We believe all these things are preventable,” Wilson said. She urged conference attendees to “keep honing your skills” to learn new ways to prevent workplace injuries and fatalities.

More than 820 safety professionals and 72 exhibitors attended the 17th Annual Western Conference on Safety, being held in this city from April 23 to 24. More than 20 seminars and sessions are offered over this two-day conference, including introductory sessions for those new to the safety field, special sessions for safety committees and supervisors, case studies and best practices for conflicts resolution and workplace violence and bullying.

Conference chair Terry Swain noted the significant growth of the conference as an indication of the growing importance of improving health and safety in workplaces across the province.

He said when the conference was launched 17 years ago there were only 140 attendees. This year, the total number of attendees has reached more than 1,200.