Occupation health series was valuable

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To begin, I sincerely thank The Telegram for the opportunity to pen my observations on your four-part series detailing violations to occupational health and safety and the number of safety directives and stop work orders.

I applaud The Telegram for your research and intuition in bringing this subject matter to the consciousness of your readership.

I have been a citizen of St. Lawrence for 40 years.

During this time, I have witnessed too often, too many of our citizens losing the battle to occupational disease and cancer and being another statistic on a death registry and the tombstones of our community.

Industrial diseases

In the cemeteries of St. Lawrence and neighbouring towns lie the remains of some 200 workers killed from industrial diseases, silicosis and cancer, contracted in the fluorspar mines that operated in our area from 1933-1990.

That mine exacted a deadly price among the region’s workforce.

Official confirmation of the nature and extent of the St. Lawrence disaster emerged through a long and, more often than not, acrimonious process, the impact of work-related diseases ultimately became one of the most recognized carnages in Canada.

I recall many conversations I’ve had with fluorspar miners over the years who described the mental and physical sufferings they endured and the indignity and humiliation of deprivation in the face of death.

Most times, common sense is what is needed to correct a work-related issue.

Most times, if government and employers listened to the worker, actions would be taken to ensure a safe and healthy and secure work environment.

Through the Commission of Enquiry On Working Conditions (1942), the fluorspar miners and employees of the St. Lawrence mines asked for annual X-rays.

Their request was denied, and years later the extremes of this negligent decision manifested itself in the untimely deaths of hundreds of men, leaving a community of widows and orphans.

Still happening

It is well known today that occupational diseases rank very high in the workplaces of our province and country, and through your reporting, it is obvious there is very little emphasis being placed by major employers on the negative long-term effects that may evolve through process, injuries and mortality.

We are still fighting for legislative improvements to workers compensation.

We currently have a group of mine workers who were employed up to 1990 by Minworth Ltd. who do not have the full benefits outlined by the Royal Commission.

We made another appeal during the recent statutory review.

Each of us should exhibit a shared vision of equality respecting the rights of all: reasonable to the extent it will benefit none of us to compromise the other.

I strongly advocate that due diligence should be executed in every work place through the enforcement of occupational health and safety policy and legislation and regulation. To this end, all of us should be stoic and exhibit true leadership.


Wayde Rowsell writes from St. Lawrence.

Organizations: Commission of Enquiry On Working Conditions, Minworth

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