When Henoka Amare’s brother Dawit died in a workplace incident in June, Amare waited for something about his brother to appear on the news, but as the days dragged on to weeks, he realized that nothing would happen. .
While making arrangements to send his brother’s remains back to Ethiopia, where his family is from, the thought of people in Toronto unaware that Davit had died on the job, or the ongoing investigation into the cause, began to gnaw at his back. his opinion.
That’s why, Amare said, he believes government investigative agencies (in his brother’s case, the federal labor program) should actively share news about workplace fatality investigations, not just respond to media inquiries about them.
“When the public, the community and everyone is notified, it will make people think about the tragedy,” he said in an interview with CBC News.
“I think it’s important that the community is notified, the companies are identified, so that people make informed decisions about whether to go there, to know that the workplace is safe.”
Dawit Amare, 52, had been working as a warehouse worker for the shipping company Canpar Express in Etobicoke, west Toronto, for over 20 years when he died on the job on June 24, his brother said. Janpar did not respond to a request for comment on the story.
WATCH | Growing concerns about COVID-related deaths and injuries in the workplace:
In an email, federal government spokeswoman Marie Therrien confirmed the death and said the Labor Program was investigating. The incident falls under federal jurisdiction, not provincial jurisdiction, as Canpar is a trucking company that crosses provincial lines.
While the Labor Program collects preliminary information and conducts an investigation, the Labor Code of Canada does not allow any information to be released, she said.
“The Labor Program cannot release any information regarding fatalities in federally regulated workplaces, including public notice,” Therrien said.
hope for prevention
Amare said he understands the need to keep personal information private, but stating that a death has occurred and notifying people where it happened seems reasonable to him.
This opinion is shared by Shirley Hickman, executive director of Threads of Life, an association to support families who have experienced workplace tragedies. She said that timely, proactive public notices of workplace deaths would help Canadians understand just how widespread the problem is.
“If there is a way to provide more transparency and timely information about deaths, it is possible that we can better understand the magnitude of these tragedies that occur every day in our country,” Hickman said.
“With awareness, there is an opportunity for prevention.”
In a statement, a federal government spokesman said there are “currently no legislative proposals” that would allow this type of information to be made public, but it “may be considered in the future” when the consequences for the parties involved in the death and the investigative process are taken into account.
- Union urges Ontario to address ‘unfortunate situation’ at National Steel Car after death of three workers
According to a spokesman for the provincial labor ministry, similar rules exist in Ontario. Response agencies, including the ministry and the police, notify next of kin in the event of a worker’s death. But the ministry does not issue press releases for new investigations, although it does provide information to the media upon request.
“However, in the case where the ministry files charges and the court imposes a fine, the ministry usually publishes a public bulletin on our website (usually when fines exceed $50,000),” spokesman Anu Dhar said in an email.
Dedication to helping others
Statistics from the Canadian Association of Compensation Commissioners show that there were 925 workplace deaths nationwide in 2019, taking into account occupational-related injuries and illnesses.
There were 49 workplace deaths under federal jurisdiction in 2020, according to the latest federal report, with five provinces—Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan—accounting for nearly 86 percent of that number.
There were 58 workplace deaths in Ontario last year, according to the Department of Labor.
- ‘Enough,’ says MP after second death in 7 months at St. John’s waste treatment plant.
Hickman said most Canadians probably don’t know that an average of three people die at work each day or die due to work-related illness.
“We read about car accidents, read about drug overdoses and read about murders, but we don’t really have an understanding in Canada that many workers die every day,” she said.
- On National Day of Mourning, a researcher calls for a closer look at the deaths of workers in the North.
For Amare, his brother’s death strikes a pang of sad irony; Davit was a member of the health and safety committee at his workplace and helped set up a first aid station at the site.
“His time was devoted to helping others,” he said.
“He always stood for a safe place, a safer workplace, but ironically, tragedy struck.”