BC Fed renews calls for stronger safety measures in construction industry
The BC Building Trades and B.C. Federation of Labour renewed calls for stronger safety measures in the construction industry after 32 workers were killed in British Columbia in 2012.
The call came at the annual memorial held to mark the deaths of four Vancouver construction workers who plunged to their deaths when a fly form collapsed at the 36th floor of the Bentall Centre Tower IV building in 1981.
“This year 17 construction workers died of exposures and 15 died due to trauma – every single death was preventable,” said Tom Sigurdson, Executive Director of the BC Building Trades.
“Since the Bentall tragedy, 834 construction workers have died in B.C., yet employers are still putting workers lives at risk.”
Last week, Richmond-based disposal company, Mr. Bin Disposal, was fined $70,000 by a Provincial Court judge for illegally accepting and storing asbestos. When WorkSafeBC investigated in 2011, they found that none of the employees were seen to be wearing personal protection such as face masks with air filters, according to the court documents.
B.C. Federation of Labour President Jim Sinclair joined Sigurdson in calling for key changes to make construction worksites safer, including improvements to job site training, enforced training of supervisors, and a cultural shift with respect to the duty to refuse unsafe work.
“Employers should be encouraging their workers to refuse and report unsafe work, not discouraging them as many now do,” Sinclair said.
“We also need to see the expansion of the health and safety rights to cover workers who are employed by small construction firms.”
More than 90 percent of construction businesses are small firms that employ fewer than 20 people.
These employees have no rights under the Workers’ Compensation Act to participate on joint health and safety committees, or to elect even one health and safety representative at their workplace