Kelowna Secondary Student Ian McKellar, 17, honours those who lost their lives in workplace accidents by playing the bagpipes during the annual Day of Mourning Saturday, April 28 in Ben Lee Park. - Credit: Carli Berry/Capital News

Work safety needs to improve, says bus driver

Shane Curveon, vice-president of the North Okanagan Labour Council, says he was assaulted on the job

More needs to be done to create a safer work environment for bus drivers, says one attendee at the Day of Mourning.

Shane Curveon, vice-president of the North Okanagan Labour Council, said they need better shields and cameras don’t cut it.

As a bus driver, he was assaulted on the job. “It shakes a person to their core and makes them question if it’s safe to do it or is it going to get work.”

On Saturday, April 28, at the annual Day of Mourning, lives lost in workplace accidents were honoured during a ceremony at Ben Lee Park.

Awareness is huge, said Curveon, but more needs to be done.

“Nobody should have to worry about not having to come home to their families at night.”

There is currently a test shield in place on a bus in B.C., but Curveon said there has to be a better shield in place that isolates the driver from the public. He referenced last year, a bus driver stabbed and killed in Manitoba.

Renee Ozee, from Burnaby, spoke during the ceremony about the need to improve safety in workplace environments. Choking back tears, she recounted the day she received the phone call explaining her 23-year-old son had been electrocuted.

“My son, Scott, died on his job. Next week is the ninth anniversary of Scott’s death. Dealing with what happened never gets easy, nothing compares to it,” she said. “He lost his life because things at his company weren’t up to par. I believe everyone needs to do more to ensure young workers don’t lose their lives.”

There were three workplace-related deaths in the Central Okanagan last year and 158 workers died from a workplace accident or disease in B.C. Young workers are also more at risk of workplace injuries. Six young workers from 15-24 died on the job, said Doug Bates, manager of client services at WorkSafeBC.

Ceremonies take place across Canada each year, to remember those who died in workplace-related accidents and to commit to creating safe work environments since its national inception in 1991. The BC Mourning: Day of Schools Project was also started three years ago to get students focused on the initiative.

“We’ve got 40 ceremonies being held across the province either today or tomorrow… and that draws in a lot of people to remind them and let them know the information about workers safety,” said Trish Knight Chernecki, senior manager government media relations with WorkSafeBC.

The number of traumatic workplace deaths has been declining in B.C., but deaths related to occupational disease has been increasing because it takes 20 to 30 years to see the results of those exposed to asbestos.

“Between 1996 and 2017, the death rate per 10,000 workers, from occupational disease increased by approximately 33 per cent,” said Knight Chernecki. “Whereas the rate of death from traumatic injuries decreased by 56 per cent.”

The decrease in traumatic injury-related deaths is attributed to a number of factors including public awareness and new regulations, she said.

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