|Scaffold deaths prompt probe of workplace safety laws|
The Ontario government will conduct an independent investigation into lax labour, workplace safety and enforcement laws in wake of the Christmas Eve scaffold deaths and a rash of construction worker deaths over the last 20 years.
Since 1990, a staggering 405 construction workers have lost their lives while on the job.
This morning, the Liberals named Tony Dean, one of the province’s most respected public servants, to head a panel of safety experts, labour groups, employers and academics to recommend changes by next fall.
In a statement, Dean, the former secretary of provincial cabinet, said he is honoured to lead a group of safety experts, all of whom have the common goal to “bring forward improvements that will strengthen protections for every worker in Ontario”.
Last year alone, 21 construction workers died while on the job, including the four Eastern European migrant workers who fell 13 floors off a scaffolding stage on Dec. 24, 2009. The workers who died on construction sites in 2009 did so in a variety of horrendous ways, from being struck by falling objects, accidently cut by machinery, electrocuted or crushed between vehicles.
Union leaders and labour activists have long argued a lack of proper safety inspections, enforcement and oversight on the job, on top of outdated legislation which no longer reflects the reality of modern construction sites, means workers' lives are at risk.
Poor enforcement combined with the growing use of migrant workers willing to work at cheaper rates and bypass safety precautions, will mean the number of accidents will increase, they say.
The investigative panel will research best practices in workplace safety around Canada and the world in order to improve Ontario’s system.
Specifically, they will examine the continuum of safety practices in the workplace and entry-level safety training, the impact on the underground economy on health and safety practices and existing flaws in labour laws.
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