Remembering and Preventing Workplace Injuries and Fatalities
April 26th 2021
Each year, on April 28th, Canada marks a national day of remembrance, dedicated to those individuals who have suffered injury or died, due to a workplace accident. The National Day of Mourning, known as Workers’ Memorial Day in the US, provides an opportunity at LISKE Accident & Injury Experts to not only remember those who have lost their lives or suffered a workplace injury, but to reflect on the most common ways that workplace tragedies can be prevented across North America.
It also gives us a chance to share some of the most common ways that safety regulations are violated, often ending in injury or death, and to renew our commitment to safety by sharing some of the best actions someone can take to avoid workplace accidents.
In 2019, Canada recorded 925 worker fatalities, with 29 of those deaths being workers between the ages of 15-24. In the same year, US recorded 5,333 workplace fatalities; an average of 15 deaths per day.
Most Common Workplace Safety Violations
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) within the US and the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) are responsible for implementing programs and standards that ensure the safety of both employees and employers in the workplace. The violation of the most common safety standards often results in an increased risk of workplace injury.
Fall Protection: Working in precarious locations and from dangerous heights incurs great risk of workplace injuries ranging from minor to fatal, especially in the construction industry. What adds to the risk are employers or workers who have not ensured that the proper fall protection equipment is in place and functioning properly. This was the most common standard violation in the US in 2020, with ladders ranking at # 5 on the list, and violations pertaining to fall protection training requirements ranked at #8. In Ontario, Canada, a lack of fall protection ranks first in the construction industry in 2017, ranking in second across all work sectors.
Machinery & Machine Guarding: A lack of proper protection being implemented on machinery that is used frequently in the workplace is a health and safety violation that earns a spot on the list in both Canada2 and the US.1 Any machine used in the workplace that can cause an injury has a number of health and safety standards that must be followed, and there are even certain requirements for different types of machines, i.e. woodworking, forges, bakery equipment, etc.
Lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): While the term PPE is used nowadays to refer to the masks we must wear when social distancing is not an option, all types of occupations have their own regulations relating to the various types of protective equipment that employees are required to wear while performing their work. Equipment like hard hats, eye and face protection, and respiratory protection have been designed to prevent numerous types of injuries for those employed in industries with a higher risk of injury or illness. Something as simple as the rubber gloves meant to be worn when performing basic housekeeping can be enough to protect someone from having a toxic or hazardous chemical come into contact with their skin. 8,318 violations for a lack of PPE on the job were recorded in parts of Canada in 2017,4 and in the US the number of PPE standard violations are ranked in both the 6th and 10th spots for 2020.3
What YOU Can Do
Every person in the workplace – employees, management, even corporate figures – has their own set of responsibilities for maintaining a safe and healthy work environment, and both the US and Canada have their own standards and regulations that are in place for workers’ protection. Workers also have a number of rights regarding the refusal of unsafe or hazardous tasks in the workplace.
Learn What is Required of You: Workplaces are required to have their country’s Occupational Health and Safety information available for all employees, and this information is commonly displayed on a board or in a handbook. Make sure you are aware of the rules you need to follow in order to keep yourself and your co-workers safe.
Determine Potential Hazards: If your job involves any work where a risk of safety or personal injury is involved, usually there will already be safety measures put in place, such as machine guards, required PPE, etc. But that does not guarantee that your workplace is entirely risk-free. Any machine maintenance should be recorded and available for employees to examine. If you notice that any equipment appears to be worn down or even broken, make sure the equipment is not being used by any of your coworkers and then immediately report the hazard to a superior.
Your Right to Refuse Work: Both the US and Canada have federal policies in place that dictate that you have the right to refuse unsafe or dangerous work. You cannot legally be dismissed or let go because you have exercised your right to refuse unsafe work. Both countries have their own qualifications for what constitutes dangerous or unsafe work. For more information, you can find resources for both Canada and the US on how each country defines unsafe work, the required conditions to be met and steps that must be taken.
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 CCOHS (n.d) “National Day of Mourning: Beyond the Statistics.” CCOHS. Retrieved from: https://www.ccohs.ca/events/mourning/
 OSHA (n.d). “Commonly Used Statistics.” US DOL. Retrieved from: https://www.osha.gov/data/commonstats
 OSHA (2019). “Top 10 Most Frequently Cited Standards.” OSHA. Retrieved from: https://www.osha.gov/top10citedstandards
 Ontario.ca (2017). “Top health and safety violations.” OHS. Retrieved from: https://www.ontario.ca/document/occupational-health-and-safety-ontario-april-2017-march-2018/top-health-and-safety-violations
 COHSR (n.d). “Canadian Occupational Health and Safety Regulations Part XIII: Tools and Machinery.” COHSR. Retrieved from: https://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/regulations/SOR-86-304/page-36.html#h-895165
 OSHA (n.d). “Machine Guarding: Standards.” OSHA. Retrieved from: https://www.osha.gov/machine-guarding/standards
 WHSC (2014). “FEDERAL Right to Refuse Dangerous Work.” CLC. Retrieved from: https://www.whsc.on.ca/CMSPages/GetFile.aspx?nodeguid=cc5a582a-b188-4c02-8efb-dede765668fc
 OSHA (n.d). “Workers’ Right to Refuse Dangerous Work.” DOL. Retrieved from: https://www.osha.gov/right-to-refuse.html