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No more Westrays: Steel workers discuss work safety with students

Chris Carpenter, left, and Devon Byfield, both health and safety instructors with the United Steel Workers District 6, gave heath and safety presentations at the county’s three high schools Monday on the eve of the 25th anniversary of the Westray Mine explosion.
Chris Carpenter, left, and Devon Byfield, both health and safety instructors with the United Steel Workers District 6, gave heath and safety presentations at the county’s three high schools Monday on the eve of the 25th anniversary of the Westray Mine explosion.

NEW GLASGOW, N.S. - High school students got a lesson in workplace safety Monday from the people who know it best.

Chris Carpenter, United Steelworkers of America District 6 health and safety instructor, visited all three schools in the county to remind students who are getting set to enter the workforce that they should never fear for their life when they go to work.

“The message is to be safe and how we can never let another Westray happen,” he said.

Carpenter said he could focus the entire presentation on Westray, but that is not the only message they are trying to get across to people.  The United Steel Workers want people to know their rights so they can protect themselves in the workplace.

“There have been improvements, but have we got where we need to be? No.  Will be ever get there? I don’t know. We will just keep working towards it.”

[Remembering Westray 25 years on]

Devon Byfield, also a USWA health and safety instructor, said the Westray law is a good start to holding companies accountable, but it is not being enforced well enough.

The Westray law came into effect on March 31, 2004, and imposes serious penalties for violations that result in injuries or death.   

“The police don’t know the law of Westray,” Byfield said. “They are just learning the law. Most of the time, when you have a work-based injury and fatality, they look to the labour law and no one lets them know about the criminality.”

The Westray tragedy brought much-needed attention about the importance of workplace safety, but more needs to be done, said Carpenter.  

The United Steel Workers of America launched its Stop Killing campaign in 2012 and it has been lobbying municipalities across Canada to enforce the Westray law.

“It will take us and communities to keep pushing back and the next generation to say no, this isn’t going to happen,” he said. “You have to stand up for your rights. If you see something wrong, you have to say something because if you don’t say something, it is not going to get fixed by itself.”
Related

 

May 8, 2017 - Old timers tried to warn about the volatility, community rallied in wake of explosion

May 8, 2017 - Remembering Bennie Benoit: One of two Cape Bretoners killed in Westray

May 7, 2017 - Mine employee saw devastation after the Westray explosion

May 5, 2017 - After tragic loss of father in Westray mine, support helped family

May 5, 2017 -  Westray - Loaded gun primed to go off

May 5, 2017 -   Museum remembering the Westray tragedy

April 26, 2017 - Number of events to mark 25th anniversary of Westray
Jan. 6,  2017 - Book documents efforts since Westray to prevent workplace deaths
May 8, 2012 - Area will commemorate those lost in mine explosion

May 7, 2012  -  Funeral director dealing with Westray funerals saw mourning like never before

May 6, 2012 - The day their dad wasn't coming home

May 8, 2011 - Former miner revisits lessons learned from Westray disaster
Jan. 12,  2006 -  Book chronicles Westray through media

May 10, 2002 - Sober thoughts
May 9, 2002 -  For the wives it's still difficult to grasp

Nov. 2, 2001  -  Long awaited film to air  

May 10, 1992 -   Community prays for miracle

 

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