Going to work for many people can be hazardous and even deadly. Canadian workers compensation boards reported that 904 workers died due to work-related causes and almost a quarter of a million workers reported lost-time injuries in 2016.
Additionally, the 2018 Report on Work Fatality and Injury Rates in Canada, found that some injuries go unreported since workers may have alternative private insurance, or employers simply choose not to report the incidents to their respective Workers Compensation Board (WCB).
The prosperous provinces of 2016, which included, British Columbia (BC), Ontario, Alberta and Quebec, represented the majority of these cases, which did not go unnoticed. Firms throughout these provinces are now leading health and safety improvements across Canada.
In BC, employers, industry associations, occupational health groups and Worksafe BC (the provincial Workers’ Compensation Board), have all been working together to improve safety training and supervision across the province.
“There’s no one thing,” says Aaron Jackson, Regional Health & Safety Manager, BC with Scott Construction Group. “There are many ways to enhance the safety culture within an organization.”
Many companies are embracing Certificate of Recognition (COR) accreditation from WorkSafeBC. The accreditation covers many aspects of workplace safety but, ultimately, helps to decrease the cost of coverage.
“People are now paying more attention to workers compensation premiums,” continues Jackson.
It appears to be working. In July 2018, WorkSafeBC announced that the preliminary average base rate for 2019 will remain unchanged, at 1.55% employers’ assessable payroll.
Concrete, heights and people are a high-risk combination. It’s impossible to remove all risk, but employers have been working hard—through safety training, supervision, and project management—to minimise the risks on the job site.
The BC Construction Safety Alliance offers free courses to workers in Sector 72, in addition to paid courses. Industry associations such as the Calgary Construction Association are also providing safety training for off-the-tools personnel, such as project managers and site supervisors.
Furthermore, the Canadian Construction Association’s (CCA) Gold Seal program includes construction safety as core curricula for everyone looking to obtain their Gold Seal status.
Knowing the risks associated with construction operations is helping supervisors and project managers to plan and supervise construction projects with safety in mind.
“We have a whole list of things that we discuss to plan safety right into the project before we even break ground,” explains Jackson.
The industry is also working hard to combat occupational disease-related issues facing construction workers, such as lung cancer and asbestosis. Achieving this hazardous materials (HAZMAT) training is of special importance. The topic has never been more relevant for the industry as residential and commercial renovation contractors are being exposed to materials, such as asbestos, that used to be utilised liberally during the 60’s and 70’s.
However, it’s not just a matter of prevention. When accidents invariably occur, employers are working with occupational health groups and employee insurance companies to maximise rehabilitation facilities and speed up the recovery.
Jackson stresses, “If the worker returns to work quickly, they integrate faster, heal sooner, and stay a productive member of the team. Whereas if they’re off work longer, it takes longer to integrate back into the team, and sometimes integration is all together impossible.”
In BC, the industry is reaping the rewards of this collaborative approach. In 2017, the average return-to-work rate for all injured workers was 81.6 percent within 26 weeks, according to an Industry Voices Op-Ed in the Journal of Commerce.
With more people than ever before working in construction, the industry has taken a 360o approach to reduce workplace risk on the job site.
Prevention and rehabilitation are being accompanied by 360o risk evaluations and debriefings to establish what has gone wrong during each incident. The results are then used to improve preventative measures, such as training, supervision and safety tools, with the ultimate aim of keeping more Canadian construction professionals safe, healthy and on the job site.