Workplace tragedies still a problem: association president

Adam MacInnis
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Every year, Mary Lloyd attends the Day of Mourning. It seems most years it’s a dark, cold day. Sometimes it rains.

Mary Lloyd, president of the Pictou County Injured Workers Association, pauses to reflect after laying a wreath in Trenton Park yesterday. Over a hundred people gathered at the monument to celebrate the National Day of Mourning, which commemorates workers who have been killed, injured or suffered illness due to workplace related hazards and incidents. JOHN BRANNEN - THE NEWS

Lloyd, president of the Pictou County Injured Workers Association, and others gathered Monday evening at the monument in Trenton, to honour those who have been injured or killed at the workplace. But every year, as the list of those dead and hurt grows, Lloyd leaves, feeling that their tribute is something less than it should be.

She dreams of the day, when she can walk to the microphone and report: “No deaths this year. Injuries have been eliminated.”

“That will be when we pay true homage to these people,” she said.

But based on the statistics, she knows that day is a long way off.

“Workplace tragedies are something we all live with on a daily basis and a yearly basis. That’s why this day was brought into effect.”

Between 2008 and 2013, 180 people have died as the result of a workplace accident in Nova Scotia. In that same period more than 167,000 injuries were reported. In 2013 alone 34 people died.

So much of the hurt happens out of the public eye. They hear only of the immediate fatality or the particularly unusual injury. The rest are known only in reports and workers compensations claims.

“I think one of the biggest tragedies is nothing’s been learned from it and nothing’s been done to prevent it,” Lloyd said. “The same employers continue to maim and kill our workers.”

Ironically enough, the health care sector is the largest reporter of workplace injuries followed by the manufacturing, construction, logging sectors. About one per cent of the assessed employers drive more than 50 per cent of the claims with little being done to address the problem.

Every day workers go to the same job, using the same mechanisms which result in the same injuries or worse, Lloyd said.

“That’s no longer an accident. That’s a crime and it should be prosecuted accordingly.”

In keeping with that, there has been a push this past year by the United Steel Workers and others to see enforcement of the Westray Bill, a law established following the Westray Mine Explosion in Pictou County. The Bill makes it possible to hold companies criminally responsible for the deaths of employees but it’s never been used.

If it was, Lloyd is confident, there would be fewer deaths.

Instead companies are rewarded for lowering the number of injuries reported. She believes this has resulted in companies simply not reporting some accidents and says experts advise against it. An estimated five to 10 per cent of workplace injuries are not reported.

For real change to happen, Lloyd says those injuries need to be made known.

Some day she hopes to walk to the mike to give good news.

It wasn’t this year, but someday, maybe.

 

amacinnis@ngnews.ca

On Twitter: NGNewsAdam

Organizations: Pictou County Injured Workers Association, United Steel Workers, Westray Mine Explosion

Geographic location: Trenton, Nova Scotia, Pictou County

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