The Latest From BCBT

Workers, family, dignitaries gather at Bentall Memorial as construction worker deaths soar
Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Thirty-seven years ago, four men went to work building one of Downtown Vancouver’s most iconic highrises: the Bentall Centre Tower IV. Those men never came home.

Thirty-seven years ago, four men went to work building one of Downtown Vancouver’s most iconic highrises: the Bentall Centre Tower IV.

Those men never came home.

“Every year, we gather to remember the lives of carpenters Gunther Couvreux, Brian Stevenson, Donald Davis and Yrjo Mitrunen, who plunged 36 floors to their deaths when the fly form they were standing on collapsed,” said Tom Sigurdson, executive director of the BC Building Trades. “And every year, we are reminded that construction workers continue to die as a result of workplace trauma and exposure.

“Workplace safety must be made a priority.”

In the years since the Bentall tragedy, more than 1,000 construction workers have died in B.C. due to workplace trauma or disease. Last year was particularly deadly, with 44 work-related construction deaths, representing a 42 per cent increase over 2016.

Sigurdson notes that one of the recommendations from the 1982 inquiry into the deaths of the four workers at the Bentall Centre was for compulsory safety training, yet construction workers continue to sustain an occupational fatality rate that is three times the provincial average.

“At some point, we have to ask ourselves why,” said Sigurdson. “With the proper emphasis on safety, training, and enforcement, all of these deaths could have been prevented.”

Sigurdson was reflecting on the Bentall tragedy during the annual memorial event. Every year, representatives from the BC Building Trades, the labour movement, WorkSafeBC, the business community and local leaders join family members and the public to mark the deaths of the four construction workers who died on Jan. 7, 1981. The memorial is an opportunity to remember the men who are so deeply missed, and to renew the call for stronger safety measures in the construction industry.

Participants placed wreaths at the Bentall Memorial plaque: 17 red roses for workers who died from trauma, and 27 white roses for workers who died from exposures and disease. Of the 27 workers who died from exposures and disease, 25 were related to asbestos exposure.

“The memorial reminds us of the terrible legacies of the past, and that we must always be vigilant to ensure worker safety remains a priority.”

Images from the event are available for download on Flickr.

Contact the BC Building Trades office
(778) 397-2220

BC Building Trades

The Latest News Items from BCBT

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Thirty-seven years ago, four men went to work building one of Downtown Vancouver’s most iconic highrises: the Bentall Centre Tower IV. Those men never came home.

Monday, January 08, 2018

What better way to fight workplace alienation than attending the largest gathering of tradeswomen on the planet?

Friday, December 29, 2017

Jobs for Tomorrow: Canada’s Building Trades and Net Zero Emissions, a report commissioned by the Canada’s Building Trades Unions and the BC Building Trades, was on the agenda of the September convention.

trade thoughts opinion from BCBT

Alberta’s situation will have an impact here

Lee Loftus

As I write this, the price of oil is about $52 a barrel. Construction workers in B.C. are following developments closely because we will feel the effects on this side of the Rockies.

BC Building Trades

Monday – Friday | 8:30am – 4:30pm | closed holidays
phone: (778) 397-2220 | fax: (778) 397-2250
email: info(-at-)bcbuildingtrades.org

» For additional contact information see the Contact Us page