Canadian workplace fatalities lowest since 1999

Two-thirds of fatalities due to occupational disease

In 2015, 852 workers died on the job across Canada, the lowest number since 1999, according to recently released statistics from the Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada (AWCBC).

Two-thirds (65.6 per cent) of these fatalities were due to occupational disease, the remaining one-third due to injury.

The five industries with the highest number of fatalities were construction industries (186), manufacturing (177), government services (113), transportation and storage (74) and mining, quarrying and oil wells (52).

When it comes to injuries, 232,629 lost-time claims were accepted across Canada in 2015. This figure has been steadily decreasing since 2000. The most lost-time claims were accepted in health and social services (41,111).

“This is one of the largest workforces in terms of size, so it is expected that injuries would be higher than smaller sectors,” said Henrietta Van Hulle, executive director, health and community services, at the Public Services Health and Safety Association in Toronto.

The nature of the work also makes health-care workers more susceptible to injuries.

“Health-care workers are not working with inanimate objects where typical controls can be applied. Patients are unpredictable and are all different. One control measure will not work with every patient they encounter,” added Van Hulle.

Rounding out the top five industries with the most lost-time claims were manufacturing (33,013), construction (26,015), retail trade (26,005) and transportation and storage (15,538).

Manitoba injured more workers than any other jurisdiction, with its lost-time injury frequency (per 100 workers) coming in at 2.99 for 2015. Rounding out the top three were British Columbia, with a rate of 2.22, and Saskatchewan at 2.04.

The safest provinces were Ontario, with a lost-time injury frequency of 0.85, followed by New Brunswick (1.15) and Alberta (1.25).

Young worker safety has improved significantly. In 2015, 15 young workers (aged 15 to 24) died on the job compared to 38 in 2014.

“It is amazing to see how parents, students, business and government leaders are more engaged in protecting our future leaders. This new leadership is helping to build a strong momentum for safety culture,” said Rob Ellis, founder of MySafeWork. “Young worker lives are being saved. The challenge to all leaders is can we reach the goal of zero fatalities to young workers? That will be the day when all families in Canada will celebrate.”

Injuries among young workers are slightly declining with 30,207 lost-time claims in 2015, compared to 30,582 in 2014.

This article originally appeared in the February/March 2017 issue of COS.