Tuesday, December 12, 2006

O Brave New World, That Has Such Worker Safety Regulations In It!

From cbc.ca.

Nearly five Canadians die every day in workplace-related deaths, an unacceptably high level, according to a study released on Tuesday.

The study, Five Deaths a Day: Workplace Fatalities in Canada, 1993-2005, says the number of workplace deaths is on the increase in Canada. In 2005, there were 1,097 workplace deaths in Canada, while in 2004, there were 958. In 1993, the total was 758.

"Canada can do much better," the study concludes.

No shit. Hey, let's do a fun thought experiment! We'll imagine that the death rate will be the highest in the poorest places, where people are most desperate for work. I wonder if that's true...

According to the study, Newfoundland in 2005 had the highest rate of workplace deaths of all 10 provinces, with 11.7 deaths per 100,000 workers, a rate that is nearly double the national average.

Hot damn, it is true!

The Centre for Study of Living Standards, an Ottawa-based non-profit organization that put together the study, looked at workplace fatalities from 1993 to 2005, analyzing the numbers by jurisdiction, gender, age group, industry, occupation, event, nature of injury and source of injury.

I would have liked to also know the difference between union and non-union shops, pay rates, and the average length of employment at sites with fatal accidents versus the national average. I'm guessing there might be a few correlations there, too.

The article goes on to state the obvious for a while, and then:

Andrew Sharpe, co-author of the study, said there is no question that the numbers of workplace deaths in Canada can be reduced through an increase in emphasis on worker safety.

"By definition, if you had a death, something went wrong — lack of proper equipment, or sometimes it's just freak accident. But the more awareness, the more there can be a reduction in the number of fatalities," he said.

You know, the people who get killed are usually aware of the problem that kills them. They're either too afraid to tell their boss, or they do tell him and he does nothing. The problem might be a power imbalance more than "awarness," Sharpe.

My favourite bit is at the end of the article.

The centre seeks to contribute to a better understanding of trends in and determinants of productivity, living standards and economic and social well-being.

Productivity doesn't have much to do with employee well being unless it drops below a variable threshold and their employer goes out of business. Rising productivity does not bring rising gains (the tide does not lift all boats as much) so why worry about it as the first portion of a living standard trinity?


Anonymous said...

The report does have a very brief discussion of the relationship between trade union density by industry and fatality incidence rates.
But you're right, pay rates and length of employment, and even just part-time vs full-time employment are definitely areas that need to be considered!

Matthew said...

Thanks for the info, anonymous visitor!