The Newfoundland and Labrador Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission (WHSCC) is concerned with a rise in occupational disease claims in the province.
Leslie Galway. — File photo
A recent commission report includes statistics showing 30 workplace-related deaths in 2013, of which 25 were attributed to occupational disease, compared to 20 in 2012.
WHSCC CEO Leslie Galway said most of these occupational diseases involved cancers as a result of exposures in the workplace many years ago in the mining and oil and gas industries.
"Unfortunately, given that the latency period for occupational diseases can be 20 years or more, this area will likely continue to be a concern for years to come," Galway said.
The commission currently has a campaign featuring five individual hazards known to cause occupational disease – noise, chemicals, fumes, asbestos and silica. The campaign focuses on preventing known occupational disease by raising awareness of these five hazards and encouraging those in high-risk occupations to properly protect themselves.
Galways said the commission also conducts workshops on the characteristics of known occupational disease and delivers presentations during all major safety conferences.
"The commission will continue to work with our stakeholders to focus on creating awareness and training on preventing known occupational disease for many years to come," said Galway. "A working group, comprised of employers, labour, Occupational Health and Safety Branch of Service NL, and the commission, oversees these educational initiatives."
On a positive note, in the statistics released this week, the Workplace Health Safety and Compensation Commission (WHSCC) said the lost-time incidence rate in Newfoundland and Labrador workplaces remained at a historic low of 1.6 per 100 workers in 2013, the same as 2012.
The lost-time incidence rate represents the number of injured workers who received compensation while missing time from work due to a workplace incident or accident.
The WHSCC said the rate had been decreasing steadily for 13 years, and has improved dramatically from its high of 5.2 per 100 workers in 1989. For 2013, 92.1 per cent of employers in the province are injury-free, up from 91.8 per cent in 2012. It said these improvements are significant given that annual average employment in the province is rising.
“Workers, employers, the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission, the Occupational Health and Safety Branch of Service NL and other organizations are to be commended for making our workplaces safer,” Service NL Minister Dan Crummell, the minister responsible for the WHSCC, said in a news release. “All stakeholders are providing important leadership around improving our safety culture and we’re seeing tangible results. Safety is everyone’s responsibility and together we can prevent injuries in our workplaces”.
The commission said young workers, aged 15 to 24 years, continue to lead the province in reducing workplace injuries. For 2013, youth reported 1.5 lost-time incidents per 100 workers, up slightly from 1.4 in 2012. However, this rate continues to trend below the provincial injury rate.
Lost-time incidents for falls from heights decreased to 8.5 per 10,000 workers in 2013, down slightly from 8.6 in 2012 and down significantly from 11.8 five years ago.
Galway said: “We strongly believe that workplace-related injuries and illnesses can be prevented. Every worker deserves to come home safely at the end of their work day. We will continue to work with our stakeholders to focus on awareness and training to help prevent injuries and occupational disease."