In 2017, there were 951 reported workplace fatalities across Canada, according to recently released statistics by the Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada (AWCBC). This figure is up from 904 in 2016 and 852 in 2015.
Construction was the deadliest industry with 217 fatalities, followed by manufacturing with 160. Trades, transport and equipment operators made up the most dangerous occupation, accounting for 486 fatalities.
Jackie Manuel, CEO of the Newfoundland and Labrador Construction Safety association, said that while the construction industry has been making progress in injury prevention, the number of fatalities in the industry and the country as a whole is worrisome.
“We have made little progress in this area over the last two decades,” she said. “But the number that really matters is one. Every one represents a family forever changed, a preventable tragedy.”
The overwhelming majority of workplace fatalities happened to men (920 out of 951) and 56 per cent of workers killed on the job were over the age of 64.
Twenty-three young workers (aged 15 to 24) died on the job in 2017, down from 25 in 2016. Young worker injuries also increased, with 31,441 lost time claims in 2017, up from 29,499 in 2016.
Looking at injuries overall, there were 251,625 lost-time claims accepted across Canada in 2017, up from 240,682 in 2016 and 232,629 in 2015.
Sixteen per cent of those were for workers aged 50 to 54.
Health care and social services had the most lost-time claims, accounting for 18 per cent of the total, followed by manufacturing (13 per cent), retail trade (11 per cent) and construction (10.5 per cent). It’s not surprising that health care leads the pack as it operates 24-7, is one of the largest employers in the country and sometimes experiences high turnover, said Sandra Cripps, CEO of the Saskatchewan Association for Safe Workplaces in Health.
“We know that shoulder and back injuries are the highest type of injury, have the highest cost and are the most difficult to fully recover from… When it comes to occurrences of violence and aggression, I would suggest there is under reporting, so the actual numbers could even be higher,” she said. “I suspect our partners in safety are keenly aware that as an industry we can do better… In order to have safe patient care, we need a safe workforce.”
To reduce the number of injuries in health care, Cripps points to several elements that need to be considered: leadership commitment, hazard identification and control, increased reporting, root cause analysis and clarity on roles and responsibilities around safety. Saskatchewan is working to fully implement this safety management system in health care, Cripps adds.
Ontario was the safest province with the lowest lost time injury frequency of 1.09 per cent. Alberta came in second with a rate of 1.39 per cent, with New Brunswick rounding out the top three at 1.46 per cent.
Manitoba fared the worst with a lost time injury frequency of 2.82 per cent. It was followed by Northwest Territories/Nunavut at 2.21 per cent and British Columbia at 2.18. However, Darlene Muise, manager of communications for Safe Work Manitoba, notes that the province’s lost time injury rate has decreased 9.4 per cent over the past five years.
“We have made significant investments in prevention and return to work efforts that are showing positive results,” she said.
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