By Kevin Werner, News Staff
It may be nearing the end of summer, and the province’s workplace safety blitz is nearing its end, but that didn’t deter Ontario Labour Minister Kevin Flynn from standing in front of the Wild Waterworks gigantic wave pool to talk about protecting young workers from injury.
“Youths are still getting injured,” Flynn told reporters after a news conference Aug. 14. “That’s why we have to be ever vigilante. We need to keep up the blitz.”
Since 2007 the Liberals have held a May to August inspection blitz that targets worksites that employ young workers. Flynn acknowledged he wasn’t making any new announcement for more funding, resources, or changes to the program. He did point out the blitz has been ongoing this year despite the province going to the polls.
“This year was an atypical year with the election being held,” said Flynn. “We are not putting any less inspectors” into the blitz.
Craig McBride, communications advisor to the minister, stated in a later email there is no extra cost associated with holding annual blitz which has inspectors making unannounced visits to worksites every day during the summer. The ministry has about 400 trained inspectors. In 2013 they made 3,000 visits to 2,300 worksites and issued 8,500 orders.
“The time and resources are well spent,” said Flynn. “If we can get out there we can prevent injuries.”
Chris Firth-Eagland, the Hamilton Conservation Authorities chief administrative officer, who oversees Wild Waterworks, said safety of its workers is of prime importance. He said every summer the HCA hires about 300 young people for its facilities, including about 100 for Wild Waterworks. This year the HCA hired an equipment safety training officer to make sure all workers know how to operate the machinery at HCA facilities.
“It’s not required by the province,” said Firth-Eagland. “It’s something we have done to keep pace to changing equipment and modernization of the fleet.”
Firth-Eagland says beyond the usual “bumps and bruises” HCA has not had a series accident in recent memory.
“I can’t think of a single significant injury this season,” he said. “We try to be a model. We take (safety training) very seriously. It’s more expensive to have more safety. But there is no alternative.”
Flynn, who was recently appointed minister of labour, represents theOakvilleriding where in 1999 an 18-year-old high school student died from his injuries while cleaning an industrial mixer in a bakery. The young man’s father, Rob Ellis, has since the tragedy campaigned to enforce workforce training for young workers.
Flynn, who talked about Ellis and his crusade, acknowledges youths are still getting injured on the job, especially during the summer months when school is out. But he said the number of young people getting injured has declined. But the number of fatalities remains high, especially on construction sites. Flynn said construction areas are the top worksites where people die from falls, or who have been crushed.
Between 2006 and 2012, according to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board numbers, 48 young workers have died on the job, and another 58,000 have been injured.
“We are one of the safest provinces in the country,” said Flynn. “(But) we just haven’t been able to bring the fatalities down. There is no acceptable level.”