Toronto – May 29, 2014 – Every year on June 1, Ontario Injured Workers Day, Ontarians pay respect to the thousands of workers who have died or been injured in the workplace. It is also a day to call for action from government and employers to ensure workplace safety is paramount.
While the most recent death and injury statistics published by Ontario's Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) might lead you to conclude that the avoidable tragedy of workplace death and injury is on the decline, the numbers are deceiving. While the reported numbers of deaths and injuries have fallen over the past three years, this coincides with a period where many Ontario workers have become jobless, and with many jobs eliminated in sectors particularly linked to workplace accidents such as heavy manufacturing and the resource sector.
What the WSIB numbers also disguise are worker deaths and injury caused by exposure to workplace toxins and other long-term health hazards. Studies indicate that the deaths about 6,000 workers' deaths in Ontario a year are the direct result of such exposure, while the WSIB numbers claim the number is less than 300.
The supposed decline in workplace claims also coincides with an increasingly adversarial WSIB regime that discourages workers from pursuing claims. As well, about 40% of Ontario workers are employed in jobs that are not covered by WSIB including the agriculture industry, which has one of the highest injury rates of any sector.
June 1, Ontario Workers Day, is an annual reminder that every worker has the right to a safe and healthy workplace, but that shamefully thousands of workers and their families continue to be the victims of a business culture that regards health and safety as burdensome costs to the bottom line. The only thing that can change that mindset is stricter enforcement and inspection under Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) legislation, a more just WSIB system, and criminal prosecution of employers who ignore their safety responsibilities. The laws exist. They must be enforced.
UFCW Canada activists are invited to show their solidarity on Ontario Injured Workers Day by joining a rally at Queens Park, Sunday, June 1, at 11:00 a.m.