Monday, December 6, 2010

Another worker injured in the workplace

By Tamara Baluja, Toronto Star, December 6, 2010

An Oakville grocery store worker has multiple fractures in both arms after they were trapped in a cardboard compactor on Sunday.
Halton police say the accident occurred at a Metro store at 1521 Rebecca St.
Oakville firefighters pried apart the machine, freeing the injured 21-year-old man with special rescue equipment called the Jaws of Life. He is in serious but stable condition.
Police notified the Ministry of Labour, which is leading the investigation on the workplace accident. The cardboard compactor has been removed from service under the ministry’s orders.
This incident is one of a growing number of workplace accidents, on the rise, according to any safety association newsletter that is telling the full story to its readers. Deaths at work are up significantly; injuries, too, are on the rise. And there seems to be a list of reasons behind the rise.
One is the length and depth of the training programs which remain somewhat superficial at best, in many organizations.
Another is the concentration of the worker on the task at hand, which seems to be influences on the multiple factors, economic, political and domestic that are playing on the worker's nervous system.
Another is the level of supervision that is applied in most workplace situations, apparently low and dropping in many workplaces.
Ironically, there is another 'influence' that many might not think of, on first look. And that is the cultural transition from "how we have done things" for the last three or four decades, and the current approach, which has been learned by only the most recent hires.
A story from the pulp and paper industry will illustrate:
A new rookie employee was using an long-armed instrument to roll a huge roll of paper across the floor when one of the "old hands" watching approached him with the news, "This is how we have been doing that for years" as he leaned his shoulder into the massive roll and moved it in the desired direction. When the rookie attempted to imitate the veteran of the plant, he separated his shoulder, in another workplace accident.
Unfortunately, as long as workers are considered analogous to the raw material that comes into every workplace or factory, that is useable and disposable, and as long as the training programs are minimal, in an overt attempt to minimize the upfront costs of getting a worker into the "flow" of the work processes, and as long as employers are found to take short cuts in their acquisition and maintenance of equipment, and as long as workers are expected to meet "time" criteria in the performance of their duties, then there will continue to be a rise in the numbers of workplace accidents, resulting in both death and injuries.
It is a culture of essentially carelessness that watches such a dynamic, from virtually all participants in the equation.
Here is a list of prosecutions from the Ministry of Labour in Ontario website for employer violations of the Employment Standards Act:
2003 ...................5

2004 ...................226

2005 ...................318

2006 ...................456

2007 ...................345

2008 ...................480

According to Statistics Canada in 2007, Workplace injuries were reported in well over half a million Canadian Workers.

The blue collar jobs which usually involve much more physical labour are considered the riskiest of jobs because that is where an injury is more likely to happen. In a white collar office job the risks are fewer, but the potential dangers are still present. (from the workplace injuries website)

•On average, one worker in 12 is injured at work.
•Workers compensation boards recorded 953 work-related deaths in 2003.
•The boards typically record one million injuries every year.
•Every year, nearly 17,000 teen workers are injured.
•The back is the part of the body most commonly injured – 29 per cent of injuries.
Read more:
Also from the CBC website:
"Over the past decade, governments and employers have made bad choices that are costing workers their health and their lives," said Canadian Labour Congress president Ken Georgetti.
"They chose to relax health and safety regulations. They chose to cut resources needed for monitoring and enforcement. They chose not to invest in research and prevention."
The increase in workplace deaths in 2003 was the sixth consecutive rise, said the CLC. The labour group added that the numbers did not include deaths from diseases contracted at work.
An estimated 16,084 workers died on the job in Canada and 17.7 million were injured, since the CLC started campaigning for a national day of remembrance in 1984.
Read more:
From Highbeam Research website
Data collected from Workers' Compensation Boards across Canada reveal that 1,097 workers in Canada were killed on the job in 2005, up 45% from the 758 work-related fatalities in 1993 and up 18% from the 958 in 2004.

Since Canadians work an average of 230 days a year, this means that there were nearly five work-related deaths per working day in this country.
Unlike death in general, workplace fatalities are in principle avoidable, so even one such death should be considered unacceptable. That nearly five workers are killed every working day in Canada is a matter of grave concern, especially when the number of workplace fatalities is increasing, not falling.

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