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Workplace deaths on the rise

Dec. 12, 2006. 07:33 AM

A new study shows the daily grind can be hazardous to your health, with an average of five Canadians dying on the job every work day. A report released Tuesday by the Centre for the Study of Living Standards found a record 1,097 people in Canada died as a result of an accident or disease suffered at work in 2005 — an 18 per cent increase over the previous year.

The statistics were calculated based on the average Canadian working 230 days each year.

"I was very surprised when the numbers were that high," said the centre's executive director, Dr. Andrew Sharpe. "We haven't had that high an increase in a long time — possibly ever — in terms of the absolute number of percentage increase."

Sharpe said most of the increase is due to occupational diseases, which accounted for half the deaths, with one-third of those fatalities directly related to asbestos exposure.

Since many of the workers were over the age of 65 and retired at the time of death, the statistics could just be playing catch-up, he said.

"Part of the reason for the increase in the worker fatalities is the aging of this cohort that was exposed to asbestos in the past," he said, noting the approximately 2,000 remaining asbestos miners in Quebec now have adequate protection.

"In that sense, it's a problem that we've taken care of. It's just because of the latency period we're seeing more deaths now."

The study was based on provincial workers' compensation data obtained from the Association of Workers' Compensation Boards of Canada.

Because each province has its own rules regarding claim eligibility, Sharpe said the spike could also be related to changes in provincial regulations, such as the acceptance of more claims linking certain professions — such as firefighting — with various types of cancer.

The most dangerous jobs include fishing, mining, oil wells, forestry and construction, the study said. Finance and insurance posed the lowest risk of death.

"It's kind of a negative aspect of our prosperity boom," Sharpe said. "Part of the reason we haven't been able to get the accident rate down is due to increased employment in high-risk industries."

Fatality rates differed across the country, with the highest occurring in Newfoundland, where there were 11.7 deaths per 100,000 workers in 2005, compared to the national average of 6.8 deaths.

Ontario experienced the largest number of workplace fatalities with 412, followed by Quebec with 223 and British Columbia with 189.

Sharpe said Canada is one of the few economically developed countries experiencing a rise in workplace deaths rather than a decline.

Posted at the Toronto Star

See full report here. * * * NOTE * * * This report takes its statistics from the Association of Workers Compensation Boards in Canada (AWCBC) which only reports ACCEPTED claims. The CIWS believes that the statistics ARE MUCH WORSE!

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