As Ontario workers and their families gather today in communities across the province to recognize April 28 as the "Day of Mourning for Workers Killed or Injured on the Job," they will also be asking why the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) is publicly covering up 1,150 fatalities, a third of all the lives lost over a nine-year period.
"When you cross-reference recently released WSIB data, it would appear that the agency tasked with compensating workplace victims is trying to erase 1,150 fallen workers out of existence," said Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) President Sid Ryan. "This is absolutely disgraceful behaviour from a public agency and it is an insult to the families of all of the workers who have died tragically due to work-related accidents or illnesses."
Just days before the April 28, Day of Mourning, the WSIB released a revised set of death and injury statistics, dating back 10 years, that under-report workplace fatalities by an average of 128 each year.
Prior to 2013, the WSIB provided death and injury statistics in a consistent manner through a "Monthly Monitor" report. Those reports demonstrated that between 2004 and 2012, a total of 3,375 workers had died due to occupational disease or traumatic on-the-job accidents.
However, the WSIB changed their data reporting practices in 2013 and issued new statistics this year claiming that only 2,225 workers had died over the same nine-year period. The WSIB brushed off the change as nothing more than "data maturity and [changing] definitions," but failed to justify how and why 1,150 fallen workers who had been counted in every previous WSIB report were suddenly no longer accounted for in the WSIB's annual reporting.
For a breakdown comparing the original WSIB data with the revised data, visit: www.OFL.ca/index.php/WSIBdata
"Every one of the 1,150 fallen workers who have been scrubbed from the WSIB spreadsheets is a real person with a real spouse, real children, real friends and real colleagues," said Ryan. "No amount of statistical gerrymandering can conceal an alarming trend in workers being killed while trying to provide for their families. Their lives will be remembered at ceremonies across Ontario and they deserve to be reflected in the official WSIB record as well."
The WSIB has been under fire from injured workers' advocates in recent years because of an internal Statistical Report that demonstrates a 36 per cent spike between 2008 and 2013 (the last year that data was provided) in the number of workers killed in traumatic workplace accidents.
"We need a WSIB that is committed to ending the carnage in the workplace, not whitewashing the annual death toll," said Ryan. "Before workplace deaths and injuries can be prevented, there must be greater accountability and transparency in reporting. Too many lives hang in the balance."
OFL President Sid Ryan will be available for comment throughout the day, but he will be on hand for Day of Mourning Ceremonies in Brampton at 10:00 a.m. at the "Milestones of Labour Monument" (8870 McLaughlin Rd.) and in Oshawa at Noon at the Oshawa City Hall "Day of Mourning Parkette" (50 Centre St South). On camera interviews can be arranged at either event location.
Photo: flickr/OFL Communications Department
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