Workplace Deaths Trending High

Saskatchewan has the highest provincial workplace fatality rate per capita in Canada, according to the University of Regina‘s 2017 Workplace Fatality and Injury Rate Report.

While the number of workplace fatalities in Saskatchewan has dropped by 12.9 per cent from 2008 to 2017, already in the first four months of 2018, the Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) is seeing an alarming upward trend in the number of fatalities reported. In the first four months, 20 workplace fatalities have occurred, which is significantly higher than what we’ve seen in the past five years during the same timeframe. If this disturbing trend continues, workplace fatalities in the province could be as high as in 2012 with 60 workplace deaths.

“While we’ve seen a drop in fatalities over the last several years, there are too many people dying on the job and it’s unacceptable,” said Phil Germain, Vice-President of Prevention and Employer Services with the WCB. “It’s time this stopped.”

This is why WorkSafe Saskatchewan–the WCB’s injury prevention partnership with the Ministry of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety–is continuing to work with and educate employers and workers to reduce fatalities. This includes helping employers make the necessary technical, system and cultural changes in the workplace.

From 2008 to 2017, there were 371 workplace-related fatalities in Saskatchewan. Of those, 23 per cent were from asbestos-related diseases. Asbestos exposure remains the leading cause of workplace deaths in the province. Symptoms aren’t typically realized until 20 to 50 years after exposure.

“This is why we feel it’s so important for the public to learn the risks associated with asbestos. Asbestos becomes dangerous when disturbed in some way, such as removing building materials during a renovation project at home or at the workplace,” said Germain. “The asbestos fibres release into the air and are inhaled into the lungs where they can cause asbestosis and increase the risk of lung cancer and mesothelioma.”

Behind asbestos and trauma-related fatalities, the third most common cause of workplace-related deaths in the province from 2008 to 2017 was motor vehicle collisions. In that timeframe, there were 71 work-related motor vehicle collisions in Saskatchewan.

“There are many preventative measures employers and workers can take to protect themselves and each other on the road. Employers can work with safety associations, and implement defensive driver training and travel safety programs,” said Germain. “Workers can be patient, focus on the task at hand and follow the rules of the road.”

The average age for all fatalities from 2008 to 2017 was 55. However, there were 29 workers under the age of 25 who died at work.

In an alliance with WorkSafe Saskatchewan, the Saskatchewan Safety Council is now offering industry-specific, free career safety education for youth in Saskatchewan between the ages of 14 and 21.

“The focus of career safety education is to prevent youth injuries and fatalities in the workplace,” said Merissa Scarlett, Community Relations Co-ordinator with the Saskatchewan Safety Council. “Saskatchewan is the first jurisdiction in North America to have free safety training available to all young workers.”

The Cade Sprackman Story

The Saskatchewan Safety Council recently produced a video, Why Career Safety Education Matters – The Cade Sprackman Story.

“He was friends with everybody,” said Cade’s mother Michelle in the video. “People would share stories with me that he could just light up a room and make everybody smile.”

On Jan. 27, 2015, Cade, 18, died in a workplace incident.

“I had talked to Cade about, ‘Are you safe at work?’” Cade’s mother Michelle said in the video. “He felt that he was, but he had nothing to compare it to … Hopefully with this education kids are taught what to be aware of, what to look for and to speak up.”

Watch the video at www.sasksafety.org/blog/blogdetails?id=126 or on the Saskatchewan Safety Council’s YouTube channel.

While 88 per cent of employers achieved Mission: Zero in 2017, the number of workplace fatalities in the province remains unacceptably high.

“When workers, leaders and partners focus on eliminating serious injuries and fatalities, every Saskatchewan worker and employer benefits from an overall reduction in workplace injuries,” said Germain. “Strong leadership, safety management systems, continuous risk mitigation and worker involvement are important factors. We all share a responsibility to keep our workplaces safe.”

For tools and resources, including information about asbestos, visit worksafesask.ca. The Saskatchewan Safety Council also has traffic safety resources available at sasksafety.org. For information about the career safety education for youth, see careersafetyeducation.ca.