‘We must take steps to reverse the trend,’ says WCB vice-president
The Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) has released data documenting a rise in the number of workplace fatalities in the province during the first eight months of 2018. From Jan. 1 to Aug. 31, there were 37 workplace fatalities.
“Workplace fatalities are higher than we have seen in the past few years,” said Phil Germain, vice-president of prevention at the WCB. “As employers, workers and professional organizations, together we must take steps to reverse the trend. The solutions will come from everyone working together.”
Over the past 15 years, WCB data show workplace fatalities averaged 37 per year in Saskatchewan. In 2017, the province saw 27 fatalities — the lowest number of fatalities in that timeframe.
“All workplace fatalities are preventable,” Germain said. “We all need to step up to make our workplaces safer. All organizations, no matter their size, should be investing in their own safety programs and make safety a key part of their cultures. Safety belongs to each of us individually as much as it is a collective concern. Working safely is just smart business and it’s the right thing to do.”
To date this year, the leading causes of workplace fatalities in Saskatchewan are occupational disease (exposure) and motor vehicle related incidents (MVI)/Aircraft. This compares to 2017 where the leading causes were occupational diseases and acute injuries. In the past 10 years, the top two leading causes have been occupational diseases (exposure) and acute injuries.
Occupational disease-related fatalities are often diagnosed years after a workplace exposure and account for 38.7 per cent of this year’s fatalities, said the WCB.
“It is expected that occupational disease related deaths will continue as workers in the province continue to be exposed to asbestos, putting them at risk of disease or death decades into the future,” the board said.
WorkSafe Saskatchewan, Safe Saskatchewan, the University of Regina and the University of Saskatchewan are currently researching workplace fatalities in the province.
“While much is still unknown, it is certain there is no single cause, which is why so many groups and organizations are looking to find solutions that will reverse the trend,” Germain said.
WorkSafe is introducing a number of awareness campaigns and resources, including psychological health and safety, violence in the workplace, asbestos exposure and residential construction worker safety.
“At the end of the day, this is going to take a deep commitment from all of us to change the current trend and create safer workplaces everywhere in our province,” Germain said.