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April 16, 2007

'Reality check' on WCB injury and death rates in N.S

HALIFAX, April 16 /CNW/

The annual report of the Workers' Compensation Board may show injury rates are down but our province's record continues to be dismal, according to the president of CUPE Nova Scotia.

Danny Cavanagh says, "Even though the Board says injury claims are down, we still had 22 workers die on the job in 2006 and that is a tragedy. That's 22 deaths too many.

" Says Cavanagh, "On top of that, even with the improved figures we still have one of the highest injury rates in the country. The WCB and this provincial government need to redouble their efforts to make workplaces safer and healthier.

"And these are only the figures from Nova Scotia workplaces that are covered by the Act. Close to 40 % of workers including entire sectors aren't covered, teachers, for example. The vast majority of child care centres are also not covered by the Act.

"Most of these workers have no WCB and no sick leave, a situation that can only be described as a travesty in this day and age. Who knows what the figures are like in these sectors?"

"Prevention of the hazardous incident has to be the primary concern. We need higher penalties for employers that put workers at risk. Currently we don't even see sufficient fines after a worker gets hurt or killed on the job," he says.

"Joint health and safety committees which are supposed to be in place in workplaces are in many cases, weak and ineffective. The province has a critical role to play when it comes to enforcing the Act and our members are telling us they just don't see this happening, and if it isn't then that too is an offence," says Cavanagh.

"While we applaud much of the work that WCB does to raise awareness on health and safety, that awareness needs to be directed at employers - not just the victims," he says.

For further information: Danny Cavanagh, President, CUPE Nova Scotia, Cell: (902) 957-0822; John McCracken, CUPE Communications Representative, (902) 455-4180

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