Remembering lives lost at work

April 28, 2016

Today, April 28, is the the national Day of Mourning to honour the memory of workers who have been killed, injured, or suffered illness as a result of work-related incidents.

Image from The Golden Tree website

The Golden Tree, image used with permission from the BC Federation of Labour

Many are observing this day at ceremonies throughout BC – and one of them is in Abbotsford by The Golden Tree, a beautiful monument created in memory of three women who died in 2007 in an overcrowded van on their way to work on a farm.

Please take a moment to think about 52-year-old Amarjit Kaur Bal, 41-year-old Sukhvinder Kaur Punia, and 31-year-old Sarbjit Kaur Sidhu. It makes me sad, and very angry, to think about what happened to them – how they were crowded into a van with 14 other workers when their driver lost control on the highway.

It was still dark out, raining heavily in the early morning rush hour, as the driver headed to a Chilliwack farm where they worked. Only the driver and front seat passenger were wearing seat belts, according to the coroner’s inquest.

“Some of the passengers were ejected during the rollover while others remained pinned in the vehicle,” reads the coroner’s report. “The van was in legal violation of the legal requirement for the provision of seat belts for all passengers as it contained no seat belt assemblies for any passengers in the rear compartment of the vehicle.”

Some passengers sat on a “makeshift wooden bench with no seat cushions and exposed nail heads” at the back of the van, acting as a fourth row of seats in the van designed to carry 15. The tires were substandard and not inflated properly.

In court, the driver pleaded guilty to driving without reasonable consideration, and driving without a proper license. The coroner made 18 recommendations, the first of which is to “educate farm workers of their individual rights, safety, and responsibilities with the inclusion of farm worker representatives on an enforcement and safety committee.”

It was also noted that the workers were new to Canada, had limited English skills, and may not have known about their “right to safe transfer to and from worksites.”

None of this brings back the three women who died. All we can do is learn from the tragedy and try to prevent it from happening to others – and that’s exactly what safety advocates are doing.

Now a sculpture stands in memory of these workers. It’s a 22-foot-high replica of an apple tree, designed by Christina and Dean Lauzé.

“The Golden Tree will stand as a monument to these women, the sacrifices of their families and friends, and as a powerful reminder of the consequences of unsafe work,” reads the Golden Tree website.


We must remember them – and everyone else who died at work – not just today, but every day. Let’s keep them in mind and do all we can to keep workers safe.

Understanding workplace stress on agenda at Upper Island Safety Conference

April 21, 2016

Understanding and Preventing Stress in the Workplace is one of 18 educational sessions at the 2016 Upper Island Safety Conference and Tradeshow May 30-31 in Campbell River.

Sheila Moir, facilitator/coordinator for the BCFed OHS Centre, will be speaking about the topic, so I gave her a call to find out what she has in store.

The first thing she told me is what it’s not about.

Stressed, photo by Carrie Nelson on Flickr

Stressed by Carrie Nelson on Flickr

“This is not a course in how to manage your stress. This is a course to find out what are the contributing factors at your workplace,” she said, describing some of the things that can lead to stress in workers.

For example, look at bullying and harassment – two problems that can be very stressful and lead to anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions.

“Bullying and harassment is now considered a health and safety hazard subject to enforcement by the Board,” Sheila said, noting WorkSafeBC’s OHS Policies for Bullying and Harassment.

Stress can also originate from many other sources, including air quality, ventilation, noise levels, lighting, workload, shift work, fatigue, and more.

“From a health and safety perspective, the more fatigued workers get, the more stressed out they are, which affects their ability to pay attention, to make decisions, to be aware of what’s going on around them,” Sheila said. “When all of those things become eroded, then workers are more likely to be at risk of an injury.”

This is the seventh year the Strathcona Regional District has hosted this conference designed for safety committee members; facility supervisors and managers; safety officers and professionals; safety business owners and sales reps; and anyone else responsible for safety at work.

Other topics include hazard assessments, preventing violence in the workplace, what’s new for first aid, the role of WorkSafeBC, workplace inspections, natural gas safety, and more.

Have a look at the registration package if you’re interested in attending.

Remembering lives lost at work

Please take a moment to think about 52-year-old Amarjit Kaur Bal, 41-year-old Sukhvinder Kaur Punia, and 31-year-old Sarbjit Kaur Sidhu. They died in an overcrowded van in 2007 on their way to work at a farm.

Trench collapse can be deadly

A 31-year-old man died on a residential construction site in Coquitlam, BC, on Feb. 23 when a trench collapsed on him.

Do you know an agriculture safety champion?

This social media campaign runs til January 2017 and focuses on workplace safety in the agriculture sector.

Tragedy a reminder to secure vehicles before repairs and maintenance

Three young workers lives ended in the last year in separate log hauling fatalities in British Columbia.

VIDEO: What’s up with changes to WHMIS?

WHMIS 2015 is being rolled out gradually until 2018, to give workers, employers, and suppliers enough time to adjust to the changes that affect classification of hazards, labelling requirements, and safety data sheets.

Safety pros answer students’ questions

“They express fear about losing their jobs over refusing unsafe work. They want to know who they can talk to if their supervisor isn’t responsive to their concerns… Generally, they just want to know how the system applies to them once they get out there in the field.”

Risk of avalanche affects workers too

Since 1998 in B.C., avalanches have caused three worker deaths and 47 accepted time-loss injury claims. It doesn’t just happen on big mountainsides; basically it can happen in anything that is steep enough to slide.

“Idiots on Ladders” contest an important reminder

They may seem pretty funny at first – but it’s really tragic to think of all the loved ones, co-workers, clients, and other people who are affected when things go sideways (literally).

VIDEO: How to talk to a worker who is bullying and harassing you

In BC, every employer must have policies and procedures in place for dealing with bullying and harassment at work. A good first step (admittedly easier for some people than others) is letting bullies know how their behaviour affects you. This video shows a great example of how to do it.