Work Related Disease Now Leading Cause of Work Related Deaths – WorkSafeBC
Prince George, B.C. – Work-related disease has surpassed traumatic injuries as the leading cause of work-related deaths in B.C.
That according to new statistics from WorkSafeBC.
For example last year asbestos related diseases resulted in 77 deaths -18 more than in 2013.
“We’ve seen over the last 10-15 years a significant decline in the overall injury rate in this province and that’s a good news story,” says Al Johnson, vice-president of Prevention Services.
“Fewer people are getting injured at the work-site. In addition to that we’ve seen the work-related death rate decline dramatically as well.”
However he says the number one killer since 2009 is worker exposure to chemicals – namely asbestos.
“We’ve known about asbestos for a number of years, we have focused as a regulator on the regulation of asbestos in the workplace,” says Johnson.
“For the most part though those gross exposures to asbestos that occurred in years gone by in our pulp mills, our shipyards, our refineries, those gross exposures to workers are not happening anymore but it’s those workers who today are dying.”
“It has what we call a long latency period so if you are exposed to asbestos 20,30,40 years ago, it takes that long for the disease to develop so those workers are dying today.”
Considering gross exposures in heavier industry are behind us, he says the goal now is to reduce asbestos exposure in the commercial and residential sector.
“When homes, especially in the Lower Mainland, where there’s a glut of demolition for new homes to be built, we’re seeing any home built prior to about 1990 contains asbestos materials, whether it be in the drywall, the floor tiles, the linoleum or in the insulation,” says Johnson.
“So our focus really right now is on commercial buildings and residential demolition. We need to ensure that asbestos is managed safely and removed safely.”
Tracy Ford, co-founder of Asbestos-related Research, Education and Advocacy (AREA) Fund, knows firsthand the tough realities of a father being diagnosed with a work-related terminal disease.
In 2007, Dave Ford was diagnosed with a mesothelioma, a terminal form of cancer due to exposure from asbestos, and died 18 months later.
Now she wants to prevent the pain her family suffered from happening to others.
“One of the key things we want to do is raise awareness, because I knew very little about asbestos until my dad got sick and passed away. I had no idea that it was a global health issue and the number one occupational killer across Canada,” she says.
“There’s thousands of products that contained asbestos and one of the worries I have is there’s going to be another peak say 30 or 40 years from now because a lot of the buildings, including our homes, have products that contain asbestos.”
Ford says people need to be aware asbestos in older buildings exists and take the proper precautions.
“There are companies out there that do materials testing and it’s always good to know what you’re working with.”
Ford say the having the proper knowledge saves lives. “Knowing what’s in your home before doing any sort of renovations is really important.”