United Steelworkers National Health, Safety and Environmental Conference Oct 6-8, 2014

October 8, 2014 Toronto:

Our union has a fatality approximately every 9 days.

Bringing this sad reality even closer to home for the delegates on this third and final day of this conference was the families of three members. Jordan Fram, crushed by 350,000 tons of muck (water, sand and mud). Sam Fitzpatrick, crushed by a boulder the size of a car. John Savinkoff, drowned when his excavator overturned into a slough.

Their deaths were all preventable if only the companies they worked for had taken proper safety precautions. Sadly this wasn’t the case for these men as they were killed on the job in what could rightly be described as industrial homicide. To make sure their deaths and others are not in vain, we must keep the pressure on the police and Attorney Generals to understand and enforce the Westray Law. Employers should be held criminally responsible when they fail to ensure the safety of their workers.

Other guest speakers included:

Wolfgang Zimmermann, President of the new Pacific Coast University for Workplace Health and Sciences.

Pam Chapman, Arbitrator/Mediator/Educator from the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law.

Steve McLinden, Partners for Health who advocate for discussions on mental health.

Nancy Hutchison, Secretary Treasurer of the Ontario Federation of Labour who spoke on a number of subjects including the “Bloody Pocket Syndrome”.

This phenomenon is where workers will and do conceal their own injuries rather than face potential discipline, intrusive drug testing, judgement, suspicion, harassment or threats from supervisors, prying question of a personal nature, peer pressure not to lose safety incentive bonuses and a blame the worker mentality. What it is really, is a bloody shame!

Closing out the conference were USW Brothers Jason Card and Brian O’Rourke who both spoke of the traumatic effects they have witnessed families go through when a loved one is injured or killed on the job and the effects it has on co-workers as well.

As the final speaker of the day, Allan McDougall, USW International Emergency Response Team (ERT) Program Coordinator noted that it is a documented fact that the United Steelworkers have more cases of post-traumatic stress disorders than the military, firefighters or police.

Enough cannot be said for Brother McDougall and the members of the ERT who respond within hours to work places where USW members have been critically injured or killed on the job. Their role is two pronged, including investigating the accident while another ERT member is assigned to assist the family in any way possible with follow up visits up to a year or more. The USW is proud to be able to offer this service to our members and their families and are the only International union to have such a program.

In Solidarity for the health and safety of every worker!