Digging Deeper to Help High-Risk Industries

WorkSafe Saskatchewan, the partnership between the Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) and the Ministry of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety, has challenged its traditional approach to preventing fatalities and serious injuries by focusing on high-risk industries and occupations.

From 2010 to 2018, the Saskatchewan WCB accepted 354 fatalities for Saskatchewan workers who died while on, or as a result of, their job. Approximately 2,400 Saskatchewan workers are seriously injured every year and the province’s serious injury rate has remained flat for the past several years.

“From 2010 to 2018, Saskatchewan on average had about 39 workplace fatalities every year. Our province also has roughly 2,400 serious injuries annually and our new approach looks to tackle both of these complex injury trends,” says Kevin Mooney, vice-president of prevention and employer services at the WCB.

For these reasons, WorkSafe launched its three-year Fatalities and Serious Injuries Strategy in December to hone in on the industries and occupations where the bulk of fatalities and serious injuries occur.

“We need to better understand the root causes of those injuries,” says Mooney.

Asbestos exposure, motor vehicle crashes, firefighter cancer exposure and falls from heights are among the leading causes of work-related deaths in the province. The serious injury priorities are in the industries of health care, transportation, construction and manufacturing and also focus on the first responder occupations.

Concrete initiatives are already under way to reduce fatalities and serious injuries, including:

  • Improving general asbestos awareness and abatement controls. From 2010 to 2018, approximately 37 per cent of fatalities were from occupational diseases. Of these, asbestos-related cancers and firefighter cancers were the top two. In 2019, WorkSafe raised awareness among residential construction workers on the risks of asbestos exposure.
  • Reducing the risk of motor vehicle crashes. Motor vehicle crashes are the No. 1 cause of acute-related fatalities. The WCB and SGI compared collision data to determine the contributing factors most likely to cause motor vehicle crashes with injuries or deaths. Gravel, one of the factors, is three times more likely to cause a work-related collision. Saskatchewan Roughrider Dan Clark survived a crash on a dirt road and shared his story in a WorkSafe awareness video.
  • Improving firefighter cancer prevention controls. Between 2010 and 2018, 23 per cent of occupational disease fatalities were firefighter cancers. In 2019, WorkSafe partnered with Jim Burneka Jr. of Firefighter Cancer Consultants, who inspected 15 Saskatchewan fire stations to identify ways the stations could step up cancer prevention efforts.
  • Identifying barriers to wearing fall protection. Falling was the fifth leading cause of workplace fatalities in 2018. Last year, WorkSafe hired a consulting firm to hold focus groups with construction workers, supervisors and safety personnel to better understand the challenges around wearing fall protection. The gaps were channeled into an awareness campaign with the Saskatchewan Construction Safety Association.
  • Coaching health care workers. From 2010 to 2018, the health care sector accounted for more than 20 per cent of the serious injuries provincially. In 2019, WorkSafe trained health care personnel on how to investigate safety incidents through root cause analysis.
  • Identifying the riskiest trucking tasks. From 2010 to 2018, transportation, couriers and commercial buses accounted for 7.75 per cent of all serious injuries. WorkSafe partnered with the Saskatchewan Trucking Association (STA) and identified 13 tasks that lead to injury the most often (Moving freight and securing loads are in the top five.) Using this information, the STA developed a training course to help workers perform the tasks more safely.
  • Improving access to mental health resources. Exposure to traumatic/stressful events is a common cause of serious injury among first responders in cities, towns, villages, rural municipalities and government ministries. These two rate codes were in the top six rate codes for serious injuries from 2010 to 2018. Working with the Saskatchewan First Responders’ Mental Health Committee, WorkSafe helped launch new mental health resources for first responders, their families and employers, available at saskfirstrespondersmentalhealth.ca.
  • Reducing hand injuries. Hand injuries among Saskatchewan’s manufacturing workers account for more than 700 injuries annually. In 2019, WorkSafe identified five manufacturing facilities where the greatest number of serious hand injuries occur. Personal protective equipment (PPE) audits are being planned for these targeted facilities.

Read more about WorkSafe’s Fatalities and Serious Injuries Strategy at www.worksafesask.ca/prevention/serious-injuries-and-fatalities/.