This afternoon two workers died and another was seriously injured when their scaffold collapsed at a construction site in Toronto. “Construction shouldn’t be a dangerous job if safety rules are properly followed. This is yet another tragic reminder of why we need tougher prevention and enforcement of safety rules,” said Patrick Dillon, Business Manager of the Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council of Ontario which represents over 150,000 construction workers in the province.
“Our thoughts are with the families and workers who have been affected by this tragedy,” Dillon said. “It was just five short years ago four workers lost their lives and one was injured in another scaffold collapse on Kipling Avenue. Have we not learned anything in that time?”
As a result of the Kipling Avenue tragedy the province appointed former Cabinet Secretary Tony Dean to lead an expert panel to look into worker health and safety. The report made forty-six recommendations for improving worker safety in the province in December 2010.
“Prevention was the focus of the Dean report and nearly five years later we continue to see industrial and construction deaths at the same level with no real decrease,” Dillon pointed out. “If we haven’t been able to make a dent in the number of worker deaths in this province then we need to shake things up.”
“Organized labour has been calling on the government to put teeth into safety legislation so employers will understand the importance of safety and not just factor it into the cost of doing business,” Dillon said. “Not one owner or director has been jailed in Ontario over the death of a worker, yet close to 100 workers die each year at their workplace, many as a result of safety violations.”
“The people involved in the Kipling Avenue tragedy pleaded guilty to criminal manslaughter and only received a fine,” Dillon pointed out. “If a worker was charged with criminal manslaughter you could be sure they would face substantial jail time. We need a culture shift in this province that puts an equal value for every life, worker or other.”
Dillon called on the government to put meaningful rules in place to prevent these tragedies. “We have too many widows and orphans in this province as a result of workplace deaths,” he said. “We need leadership and effective laws that will ensure workers who arrive for work in the morning go back home at night to their loved ones.”