O’Neill, campus locals say 300 workplace injuries last year ‘unacceptable’
VANCOUVER—With a crowd of approximately 75 university workers in attendance, CUPE BC president Barry O’Neill marked today’s international Day of Mourning with a call to end preventable injuries on a campus that saw 300 work-related injuries last year.
“This campus alone saw 300 work-related injuries last year, and that’s unacceptable. WorkSafe BC visited this employer every month to deal with inspections and orders for all kinds of hazards on campus,” said O’Neill.
“In all of B.C. last year, 139 workers died as a result of a workplace incident. Forty-five were the result of traumatic fatalities, six were workers aged between 15 and 24, 71 were occupational diseases of which 59 were asbestos-related. And those 71 occupational disease fatalities are the tip of the iceberg.”
CUPE 116 president Colleen Garbe used her remarks to urge the university to become more proactive in providing training for workplace safety and preventative measures.
“This is a place of higher learning, and they talk about being a centre for excellence,” said Garbe. “But when it comes to providing a safe workplace for their employees they can’t get it together unless they’re forced by WorkSafe BC to do something.”
CUPE 2950 president Natalie Lisik says the university needs to take into account all safety issues and provide a healthy working environment. Mental health issues related to workplace stress are too often ignored, she said.
“I know people who have committed suicide because of work-related stress,” she said.
“One member who came in to see the shop steward because of harassment on the job committed suicide a month later. But unless it happens on the job, it’s not even recognized by the employer—even if the mental illness was a result of pressures in the workplace.”