There have been several workplace-related accidents, resulting in two deaths in Saskatchewan in August alone, and one organization believes it’s the direct result of government cutbacks.
Saskatchewan Federation of Labour President Larry Hubich said the province has seen a growing workforce over the last number of years, but believes the number of inspectors hasn’t kept pace.
He thinks that’s translating into work sites that are more dangerous.
“I think it’s a direct result of the cutbacks that we’ve seen to Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) over the last few years. I think we’re seeing it culminating in a number of very serious accidents that are resulting in workers being killed,” said Hubich.
This week, a 27-year-old man died after a workplace accident at an oil field site near Alameda. Also in August, there have been two incidents at the Agrium potash mine by Vanscoy, one of which was also fatal.
Hubich said two years ago, the province had more than 50 inspectors to visit work sites and assess safety.. Hubich points to the government website now as only listing 27 inspectors.
The provincial government disputes Hubich’s claims, insisting in the last nine years it’s only added positions – not reduced them. Statistics provided from the province indicate there are currently 55 inspectors, three more than 2007.
The province also pointed out the injury rate has dropped to 6.19 per cent in 2015, compared to 9.87 per cent in 2007.
Random inspections make up about 25 per cent of all inspections, according to the stats, while the rest are aimed at those companies with the worst injury rates. Hubich said that means the majority of employers are being notified by OHS before a visit, giving companies enough of a heads-up to correct any issues.
Ultimately, Hubich said the onus is on the employer.
“The responsibility to make sure that the workplace is healthy and safe rests with the employer, and if they’re not doing their job then that’s when people get hurt and that’s when people die,” he said.
“The consequence of not doing better is another young worker who’s killed and leaves a partner without a husband and two kids without a dad.”