Day of Mourning Event Held at Local 793 Head Office

Labour, governments and employers must do more to curb fatalities and injuries on construction sites and other workplaces, Local 793 business manager Mike Gallagher said in remarks at a Day of Mourning ceremony April 27 at the union’s head office in Oakville. “The trend this year for fatalities is absolutely going the wrong way,” he […]

Labour, governments and employers must do more to curb fatalities and injuries on construction sites and other workplaces, Local 793 business manager Mike Gallagher said in remarks at a Day of Mourning ceremony April 27 at the union’s head office in Oakville.

“The trend this year for fatalities is absolutely going the wrong way,” he said, “and that means that we have to redouble our efforts, find out what the main cause is, what’s happening and make sure that we take actions to prevent these fatalities from happening.”

About 100 people, including many employers, apprentices and union staff, attended the morning, hour-long ceremony, held at a monument at head office that is dedicated to Local 793 operators who’ve been killed or injured on the job.

In the audience were a number of family members of Local 793 operators whose names are etched on the monument. One new name was engraved on the monument this year – that of 54-year-member Wayne McPhail who died from asbestosis on April 6, 2017 at 77. McPhail developed problems from asbestos on the clutches and brakes he worked on.

Gallagher said while efforts are being made to prevent accidents, the fatality statistics so far this year in construction are sobering.

“When we think we’re going in the right direction, we start to go in the wrong direction.”

There have been seven construction fatalities in Ontario so far this year, he said, up from two during the same period in 2017.

In 2017, he noted, 22 people were killed in construction site accidents in the province, up significantly from 14 in 2016, while 271 construction workers were injured, up from 182 in 2016.

According to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB), about 200 people are killed each year on the job in Ontario, which, Gallagher said, is “far, far too many.”

He said a large number of the construction fatalities are either from struck-by accidents or falls.

“You can fall just seven feet and end up in a fatality,” he said. “Some of these falls are from much greater heights and some of them are from lesser, but a fall is absolutely a major problem despite all the efforts that have been made for fall protection and everything else.

“It just seems not to be getting through because you can have fall protection gear on, but if you don’t tie off it isn’t worth anything really except decoration.”

Gallagher noted the Ontario government has launched an awareness program called Stand Down for Safety aimed at encouraging construction employers and workers to engage in toolbox-style talks at the start of each workday to ensure safety is a daily focus.

However, he said, more must be done, legislation needs to be tougher, and efforts to prevent fatalities from happening have to move quicker, as workers are still being killed.

Gallagher noted that several years ago two young girls were killed in a tragic accident in the Niagara area on a Take Our Kids to Work Day when the “Gator” utility vehicle they were riding in smashed into the bottom of a parked truck-trailer.

“If that doesn’t tell you there’s something wrong with how we view health and safety nothing will.”

He also spoke about a fatality involving Kyle Knox, a Local 793 apprentice who was killed Oct. 11, 2011 when a rotary drill rig collapsed at a construction site in Toronto. The operator of the drill rig was not licensed and only had 80 hours training.

Gallagher said Knox was a young man with a promising career and the accident likely would not have happened if a licensed, qualified operator had been running the rig.

“It boggles the mind why we would want to take shortcuts when we know the risk is so, so high.”

Gallagher told those at the ceremony that labour has been pushing for more penalties and bigger fines for employers who are criminally responsible for fatalities in their workplaces and on their sites since the Westray mine disaster, but the fact is it’s not happening.

“The law is there but the enforcement of that is not and very few employers have gone to jail. The other thing is that the fines, on average, are just under $100,000 across the country for a fatality and I say to you that that’s a pitifully low amount to value a human life when there’s been absolute cause of an employer ignoring health and safety.”

Gallagher said he believes that fines have to increase but governments also have to put more money into prevention.

“Everybody talks a good game in government and that probably happens in every province across the country where they talk the mantra, but they don’t necessarily follow through with what they’re saying. They’re fine-sounding words but they’re not taking action to prevent accidents and fatalities from happening.”

Gallagher said Ontario has a chief prevention officer but the problem is that everything moves too slowly when it comes to health and safety.

“We’re not moving fast enough on prevention to ensure that we do actually prevent the fatalities from happening.”

For example, Gallagher said, a study done by the Construction Safety Association of Ontario showed that compulsory certification of crane operators coupled with mandatory training reduced operator fatalities in Ontario by more than 80 per cent or higher, but crane licensing regulations across the country are less than Ontario’s standard.

As a result of harmonization efforts, he said, there is pressure on Ontario to lower its standards and reduce the amount of training hours required to become a crane operator.

Instead, he said, the tide should be reversed and compulsory certification should be made mandatory for every piece of heavy equipment.

“You should have compulsory certification and you should have mandatory training. Unbelievably, there is equipment out there on jobsites and various places where the operator doesn’t even need a driver’s licence to operate the equipment.”

Gallagher called on governments to ensure that all types of heavy equipment have certified and licensed, mandatory-trained and qualified operators.

He noted that after four and a half years the union was finally able to convince the province to make crane licensing mandatory for rotary drill rig operators.

“The issue was offshore contractors coming in here and putting less-qualified workers on the equipment, something we have to be absolutely vigilant on,” he said. “But why does it take four and a half years for us to do what we all know needs to be done?”

Gallagher also spoke about a mesothelioma-screening program at Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto. The early detection program is a pilot project supported by Local 793 and other building trades. The program is designed to detect mesothelioma and lung cancer at an early stage.

He encouraged operators and apprentices to participate in the program. Members can call 416-340-5686 to get more information about the program.

Local 793 president Joe Redshaw, who emceed the ceremony, said fatality statistics are going in the wrong direction and he called on the Ministry of Labour (MOL) to conduct more enforcement blitzes to make sure workers are trained and using equipment properly.

He also called on the WSIB, Infrastructure Health and Safety Association and MOL to review statistics to find out if there’s a common cause for fatalities and determine if that’s due to lack of enforcement, jobsite inspections, training or complacency in the workplace.

“We need to look at those deeper and find out if we can find a cause and then we can focus on that type of training.”

Oakville Mayor Rob Burton said he’s proud that the Region of Halton, Town of Oakville, Oakville Hydro, the local hospital and housing corporation all agree that safety is their top priority.

“We pledge that we will return you and we will do everything in our power and deploy every resource at our command to make sure that you go home to your family and your loved ones in as good condition as you come to work in the morning. That is our reciprocal responsibility we have to the people who work for us.”

Oakville North-Burlington MP Pam Damoff expressed her condolences to families at the ceremony whose loved ones have died.

“No one should send someone off to work and not have them come home,” she said. “Everyone should expect to greet their loved ones exactly the same way that they left for work.”

Oakville MP John Oliver said in 2016 more than 900 Canadians died due to a workplace injury or illness and hundreds more were injured.

“The tragic loss of women and men every year is a reminder that there’s always more that we can be doing to improve workplace health and safety.”

Also at the event, Local 793 vice-president Joe Dowdall read a poem called Do You See Me? that was written by retiree Frank G. Davis of London. Following is the poem:

You will see me in the sunset’s glow
And in the early morning rise
And you will see me in the clouds that float
Across our lovely skies

You will hear me in the thunder
And in the winds that blow
You will see me in the sparkling frost
And on the new falling snow

You will feel me in the warm breeze
That blows every spring
You will hear me in the song
That nesting robins sing

You will feel me in the bark
As you touch a tree
And each leaf that falls
Forever more
Will be a part of me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Local 793 Marks Day of Mourning

The time has come for employers and governments to join forces with unions and take concrete action to prevent any more workplace fatalities in Ontario. That was the overriding theme of remarks made by Local 793 business manager Mike Gallagher at a morning ceremony at the union’s head office on April 28 to mark Canada’s […]

The time has come for employers and governments to join forces with unions and take concrete action to prevent any more workplace fatalities in Ontario.

That was the overriding theme of remarks made by Local 793 business manager Mike Gallagher at a morning ceremony at the union’s head office on April 28 to mark Canada’s National Day of Mourning.

“When you know what should be done and it’s not done it’s extremely frustrating,” he told the audience gathered outside at a monument and memorial garden on the union property.

“Unless you take action and unless you have fines in place that are commiserate with the loss of life to families, and unless the owners that are involved that deliberately overlook safety hazards in the workplace are put in jail, then we’re going to continue to see this type of thing going on.”

Gallagher said the province talks about having a target of zero workplace deaths, which are fine-sounding words, but workplace deaths will continue to mount unless real action is taken.

“We’re going to be standing up here next year and the year after that and the year after that constantly talking about the fact that we have a zero target for deaths in the workplace.”

He said much more needs to be done than hanging flags at half-mast.

“If you kill a worker in the workplace due to negligence you should go to jail. The people that are involved in that negligence, that deliberately cut costs and overlook putting properly trained people or taking measures to keep people from unsafe situations or put pressure on workers to do work that is not safe should be punished with severe fines and also they should go to prison.”

Gallagher noted there were 16 construction deaths in Ontario in 2015 and already this year one worker was killed in Ottawa when ice from an excavation wall fell on him.

Workers had complained several times about ice buildup on the worksite, he said, yet the accident still happened.

“In my way of thinking there’s not a lot of work involved to take that ice away before subjecting workers to go down into an excavation and go to work with a large amount of ice hanging over top of them.”

Gallagher said no parent should be sending a son or daughter off to work, as if they were sending them off to war, and be forced to worry every minute if they will return at the end of the day.

“The time for action is now and we have to tell the powers that be, the politicians, the people that are in management, and the owners of companies, that they have to invest in their people and they have to protect their people.”

Gallagher called upon Premier Kathleen Wynne and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to enact and enforce laws to ensure that the people who are responsible for killing workers in the workplace pay the price behind bars.

“It’s not until we do that that we will actually have a safe workplace and can feel good about sending our children and our loved ones out to work, knowing that they will return at the end of the day.”

Gallagher said there is no reason in this day and age to have any workplace deaths.

He noted that Marc Normand, a 50-year-old Local 793 welder who was killed Nov. 2, 2015 when a pipe rolled off a loader and crushed him, died because an inexperienced worker who didn’t receive any training ended up operating a machine far superior to his skills without a journeyperson guiding him.

“I call upon all of our employers out there to join with us and support us in making sure that every worker that goes out there has the most qualifications that they can possibly have.”

Gallagher said the union has invested more than $100 million in training and wants to get compulsory certification for more heavy equipment trades to ensure that everybody operating machines is qualified.

He said the Operating Engineers will never stop trying to make worksites safer.

“We will work relentlessly to hold the feet to the fire of the powers that be to make sure we do not have to add any more names to this monument that’s here behind me. Let’s make the names that we added the last names that we added.”

Gallagher expressed his support for Bill 180 which has passed second reading in the Legislature and been referred to a standing committee. The Bill would raise awareness of workplace safety by seeing Canadian and Ontario flags at all government and public sector buildings across the province lowered to half-mast on April 28 each year.

“I truly feel that all of the elementary schools and the high schools, and the universities and the colleges and the trade schools, all of them should have their flags at half-mast, and more than that they should have a moment of silence and remember the workers who’ve died. We will be lobbying the government to make sure that recognition takes place for workers who have died on the job, just as it does for veterans on Remembrance Day.”

Gallagher noted it was fitting to hold the ceremony at the monument at head office as it was built to honour Local 793 members who’ve died as a result of a construction site accident or occupational illnesses.

Three names were added to the monument this year. They include:

  • John Hunt who died Sept. 2, 1980 at the age of 36. He was killed when he went into a building to get out of bad weather and the block structure collapsed.
  • Jamie Drew Davis who died July 12, 2015 at the age of 43. He died from complications from back surgery from an injury he suffered on the job.
  • Marc Normand who died Nov. 2, 2015 at the age of 50. He was killed at a road construction project in Unionville when a pipe rolled off a loader and crushed him.

 

Video presentation of the Day of Mourning ceremony held at IUOE Local 793 head office

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