Well in excess of 2,000 Ontarians died last year as a result of traumatic incidents and hazardous exposures at work, according to estimates supported by research evidence.
And even this alarming toll is a conservative estimate
according to this same research evidence.
Still, Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) recognized just 220 worker death claims in 2022. Equally troubling, these WSIB death claims are often the default statistic shared when discussing the number of workers killed each year as a result hazardous work.
“This routine of under recognition in many ways is an affront to the suffering of workers
, their families and communities,” explains Andrew Mudge, executive director, Workers Health and Safety Centre (WHSC). “Failure to shed light on the true toll of suffering serves only to downplay the collective need to more aggressively pursue safer, healthier work
through enhanced regulations, stronger regulatory enforcement and ultimately workplace prevention efforts.”
Under recognition of occupational disease deaths
While most, if not all, traumatic deaths at work get reported to the WSIB, very few deaths caused by occupational disease are reported
to or recognized by the WSIB. This is particularly the case for cancer, lung diseases and other chronic illnesses with long latency periods between workplace exposure(s) and disease onset. Consider, for instance, estimates suggesting between 600 and 5,000 Ontarians died in 2022 from work-related cancer
Under recognition of occupational injuries and illnesses
The experiences of workers and research evidence also suggest significant under reporting and recognition of injuries and illnesses including mental injuries, violence, along with COVID-19 and other respiratory infections caused by workplace transmission. Ontario-based and globally recognized, Institute for Work and Health (IWH) has been studying this issue for decades and believe somewhere between 40 and 60 per cent of potentially compensable conditions are typically not reported
to the WSIB and other provincial compensation authorities.
Truth be told this Day of Mourning
“We recognize it is not the mandate of the WSIB to capture the true toll of suffering,” explains Mudge. “We also recognize though a more accurate picture of worker deaths, injuries and illnesses must be prioritized and widely communicated.
Sharing this true toll of suffering is critical to inform the public, government regulators, employers and others of the full impact of unsafe and unhealthy work and lend some urgency to the pursuit of prevention.
“This will be one of our priorities on April 28 as we take a moment to reflect on all lives lost
and the many who suffer injury and illness as a result of hazardous workplace exposures,” says Mudge. “Though equally important the Day of Mourning affords us all the opportunity to re-evaluate and recommit to the many priorities we must act on to help workers not only survive, but to thrive.”
April 28 is Canada’s National Day of Mourning to remember workers who have lost their lives or suffered an injury or illness as a result of their work.
To learn more.
WHSC fact sheet A More Accurate Picture of Workers Disability, Disease and Death
WHSC Day of Mourning 2023 resources, including a province-wide event listing
Call: WHSC training services representative in your region.
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