Thursday, January 07, 2010

BC Building Trades call for much stronger safety measures for construction workers with over 30 construction workers killed in BC each year and after tragic Toronto scaffolding accident two weeks ago claimed 4 workers’ lives.

VANCOUVER — The BC Building Trades Council is calling for much stronger safety measures in the construction industry because more than 30 workers a year have been killed on average over the past 10 years.

The call came at an annual memorial held to mark the deaths of four Vancouver construction workers who plunged to their deaths when a fly form collapsed at the 36th floor of the Bentall Centre Tower IV building in 1981. And it comes just days after a very similar and tragic construction accident in Toronto claimed four workers lives when their scaffolding broke on Christmas Eve.

“Every single year in British Columbia in the past decade more than 30 workers have died from either fatal workplace accidents or from diseases like asbestosis that they contracted while doing their jobs – and that’s totally unacceptable,” says Wayne Peppard, Executive Director of the BC and Yukon Territory Building and Construction Trades Council. “That includes 33 who died in 2008, the last year full statistics are available for.”

“In the 29 years since the horrific accident while building the Bentall Centre Tower IV in 1981 we have lost an unbelievable 740 construction workers to fatal accidents and industrial disease,” Peppard said, speaking at a plaque dedicated to the four workers near the Burrard Street SkyTrain station. “It is a devastating reminder that not nearly enough has been done to honour the loss of those four lives by dramatically improving safety in the construction industry.”

“And now on Christmas Eve in Toronto we saw yet another terrible example of what happens when safety is ignored – four more workers falling to their deaths,” Peppard said. “None of those workers were tied to lifelines, as safety laws require – and the consequences were deadly.”

Peppard was joined at the solemn event by Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson; Michelle Laurie, Chair of the BC Federation of Labour’s Health and Safety Committee and President of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union local 258; Al Johnson, WorkSafe BC Regional Director of Construction; and Gil Shoesmith of the survivors support group Threads of Life.

BACKGROUND: The annual event marks the tragic deaths of four construction workers during the construction of the Bentall Tower IV on January 7, 1981, at the corner of Melville and Dunsmuir Streets. Four workers plunged from the 36th floor to their deaths when a fly form used for pouring concrete broke away from the top of Bentall Centre’s Tower IV. Gunther Couvreux, 49; Brian Stevenson, 21; Donald W. Davis, 34; and Yrjo Mitrunen, 46; lost their lives.

In 2008 there were 33 deaths of BC construction workers attributed to workplace accidents and diseases. Final statistics for 2009 are not yet available but the annual average number of construction workers’ deaths is 30 over the past 10 years.

For More Information: 

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

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