To the editor:
I really appreciated Jennifer Smith’s page one article on the National Day of Mourning memorial held Monday. (Don’t Take Worksite Safety for Granted, April 29 Capital News.)
Life is a precious gift and sadly too many are lost at work in accidents that could have been prevented. As I was reading the article I see she has quoted that 22 people were killed in motor vehicle accidents while on the job.
Please allow me to point out how low and misleading this number quoted from WorkSafe BC is, because it ignores workers killed while driving to or from work.
You may recall your coverage of the National Day of Mourning memorial for Road Crash victims organized last November by another Capital News columnist, Paul Hergott. Each year in Canada, over 2300 people are killed and another 50,000 injured in road crashes (Transport Canada), including over 400 in B.C. (ICBC). If a jet plane crashes and kills this many people, we call for national public inquiries, yet people getting killed one (or several) at a time in road crashes is OK?
I suggest that we need to take proactive action to improve worker safety on our roads. On a typical day at least 25 per cent of the traffic on our roads in cities is workers driving to/from the job site, so in the order of 100 workers are killed on their way to or from work.
That WorkSafe BC statistic should really be increased fivefold, closer to 122 workers killed while driving and over 228 workers killed overall, each year.
Workers need our help off the site as much as on the site. Sleepy (a.m. commutes) and/or tired (p.m. commutes) workers are among the worst, highest risk drivers to have on the road. Crash reports will tell you that driver error is a contributing factor in 96 per cent of crashes, so perhaps we need to expand the role of WorkSafe BC’s jurisdiction to include ways to make driving to/from work safer for workers as well, not just driving while at work.
Think about it. We would all benefit from safer roads, right? In Fort MacMurray, Alberta, there were so many trades workers killed commuting to and from job sites that several employers now bus them.
Trades jobs in B.C. are forecast to boom in the coming decade, we need to be proactive to protect our youth going into trades as much on the road as on the job site. Why can’t we do something similar here in Kelowna or elsewhere in B.C.?
We already have good transit in Kelowna; yes it can always be improved to meet demand. We already have lots of bike lanes that are being improved each year. We already have on-line carpool.ca services. We even have one noteworthy employer in Kelowna that buses its employees, Canadian Blood Services, transporting them on highways between Kelowna and their mobile blood donor clinics in Kamloops, Penticton and Vernon.
Sadly, no one else has followed suit (yet).
Not enough of us stop to think about the driving risk—until it is too late. Over your lifetime the risk of dying in a car crash is one in 100. So look to your left and right: In a room of 100 people, one of you will die in a car crash—unless we do more.
For our younger generation, newborn to age 40, more years of productive life are lost in road crashes than those killed due to teen suicide, cancer and heart disease. I’ll bet every person reading this letter knows someone who has, or has themselves, been in a serious crash. It is not worth it. Please take time to stop and think about it.
If you have time, I strongly recommend a good read on road safety that has just come out on ways we can reduce road fatalities, a book by Neil Arason, called No Accident. He has some startling statistics gleaned from publicly available data sources on how bad our road safety problem is, along with some very practical ways that we can all reduce our risk of being killed, many of which are in use by other Canadian jurisdictions.
And perhaps if enough of us sound off to our elected leaders, it can be put under WorkSafeBC jurisdiction to help workers and employers make our roads safer for all—you, me and the next generation.
It is a team effort—driver instructors, traffic cops, road tests, community planners, transportation engineers, researchers, workers, employers, drivers—we all need to do our part, but it is clear from nagging fatalities that what we have done to date is not good enough. We need to do much more, we need to get innovative and realize synergies that exist, such as WorkSafeBC site monitoring and proactive safety programs.
Please add your voice to this.
Dr. Gord Lovegrove, associate professor,
UBCO Sustainable Transport Safety Research Lab