A sombre crowd took time to remember those who lost their lives or were injured on the job on the National Day of Mourning at City Hall on Thursday.
No doubt the death of the worker who was killed on the Nova Chemical’s Joffre site was foremost on everyone’s mind. It was the first workplace fatality at the petrochemical plant in nearly 40 years.
Ryan Hawley, Parkland Regional Safety Committee chairman, said it was incredibly unfortunate when you look at how safety is part of the culture at Joffre.
“It was their first accident in over 30 years,” said Hawley. “It’s incredibly sad. That’s the place where if there is a safety culture, they have it. Hopefully they can find out why it happened and stop it from ever happening again.”
As is a regional arm of the Alberta Construction Association, the committee provides education and training about safety throughout Central Alberta. It is made up of local volunteers from Central Alberta trade and construction associations and the Worker Compensation Board. It works with employers, workers and schools to promote health and safety.
Hawley said they are starting to see more companies embrace a safety culture where it is not just having a policy and procedures in place but having the attitude that if something is not right, it will be reported without fear of repercussions.
He said this starts at a young age where youth are taught about safety from a behaviour sense in the schools.
“We work with high school kids so that by the time they get into the apprenticeship programs safety is just normal,” said Hawley. “And when the boss is looking the other way, they don’t know anything else but to behave safely.”
The crowd heard that last year there were 125 fatalities in Alberta, according to the Workers’ Compensation Board. There were more than 900 workplace-related fatalities across Canada in 2014.
Dan Trottier of the Canadian Society of Safety Engineering Central Alberta chapter said it is a stark reminder of the fragility of life. He said the statistics continue to reinforce the needs to be vigilant and ensure all come home safely at the end of the work day.
Safety is becoming more of a priority with companies and people want to work for companies that do, said Dan MacLennan, executive director of the Alberta Construction Safety Association.
“This week we saw some tragic deaths and there is a ripple effect with everyone who is affected and it goes and goes,” said MacLennan. “People want to be safe at work. We talked to people today who are losing their jobs … There is no excuse for not having the highest safety standards … There is never an excuse to endanger others.”
Labour Minister Christina Gray said every worker has the right to a safe, fair workplace and to come home safely at the end of the day.
“I believe employers, workers, labour groups, industry organizations and government all have a responsibility to make that happen,” she said. “The Alberta government is working to improve health and safety on all job sites. We will continue to make sure employers are taking all necessary precautions to keep workers safe.”
Alberta Occupational Health and Safety and police are investigating the death at Nova Chemicals.