Workplace Injuries Are A Community Problem
Mar 19, 2007
Manitoba continues to lag behind provinces in the rest of the country when it comes to worker injury rates, and it’s high time the entire community gets behind efforts to reduce these numbers.
Recently it was revealed that Manitoba’s injury rates had been reduced by 20% (a significant drop) in the last several years, unfortunately this is slightly less than the target established by the Provincial Government in 2002. Naturally politicos and media used the numbers to chastize the Doer government, but nowhere in the bluster did we hear any calls to the business community to clean up its act and ensure safety guidelines are being followed.
Employers must be held accountable for safety violations in their workplaces just as government must be held accountable for doing safety inspections, bringing scofflaws before the courts, and levying fines and penalties for business owners that repeatedly violate safety standards. Education and public awareness campaigns must go hand in hand with enforcement in guiding the injury rates downward.
The numbers also apparently reveal that Manitoba’s injury rate is an astounding 85% above the national average. This information has caused some in the media – notably the Winnipeg Free Press Editorial Board – to name Manitoba “Canada’s most dangerous place to work”.
The facts are otherwise. Time loss injury statistics are based on WCB data, which is limited to WCB-insured industries. While the WCB data covers only 70% of all workplaces, with the exception of agriculture, workplaces covered by the WCB represent those sectors with the highest injury rates (eg. manufacturing and construction). Significant limitations in comparing the injury frequency rates across Canada are that the percentage of workers covered under the workers’ compensation system varies by province, as does how it is administered.
The government HAS been negligent in recouping over $9 million in potential fines to businesses that have been cited for safety violations. However it is important to underline that the WSH Division has prosecuted non-compliant employers through the courts. Stop work orders are also effective ways to get companies to comply.
The WSH Division’s role is not to generate revenue for the government through penalties to employers but instead to work with employers to ensure Manitoba workplaces are safe and meet the standards put in place by government through a strengthened Workplace Safety and Health Act. If employers continually fail to meet those standards certainly there should be a penalty and it should be a penalty that sends a clear message that violators will not be tolerated in Manitoba.
But as we call for more stringent adherence to guidelines for businesses and more accountability from government in identifying and punishing offenders, the labour movement, employees and the media have to work together to keep this issue front and centre so that workers lives are not endangered on the job.
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