HEALTH AND SAFETY – YESTERDAY, TODAY, TOMORROW
Health and Safety – Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
If we go back 135 years, we wouldn’t find any protection or support for workers injured while on the job. The major industries at the time were coal and asbestos mining, and many workers had no choice but to work in cold, dark and extremely dangerous conditions. Efforts were made by employers to increase efficiencies, but there was no concern on the safety of their workers. Employers would bring in new machines to increase efficiencies, but they would be bigger and far more dangerous than the ones they were replacing. Methane gas explosions in mines were a regular occurrence, killing many workers, and thousands of workers constructing the CP Rail lost their lives due to unsafe working conditions. Since then Canada has come a long way in providing protection for the worker. Throughout the 20th century many injuries and deaths had to happen in order to spark government commissions and inquiries, which would lead to a change in the legislation in efforts to further protect the workers. Today’s concerns are centered on mental health, heart diseases and weaknesses, as we have seen declines in the agricultural, construction and manufacturing industries and we move towards a more service industry based economy. Tomorrow’s health and safety concerns will be about how to prevent these mental stresses and heart diseases and weaknesses, but also more efforts need to be made in dealing with on the job fatalities, as we haven’t seen a decrease in the statistics. History of Health and Safety
Throughout the 1900’s many industry-specific health and safety laws were passed and compensation boards were created, but there were still flaws in the system; it provided for the injured worker, but it didn’t stop injuries, diseases and deaths from happening. By the 1960’s scoliosis and other cancers and diseases were becoming rampant in asbestos miners, smelter workers and uranium miners. These slow developing diseases added another concern to safety in the workplace; it put an emphasis on the health aspect. Going into the 1980’s more Canadians were working in offices which brought forth different health issues, such as ‘sick-building syndrome’ and mental stresses. The 1990’s saw permanent jobs disappearing with globalization and downsizing gripping the nation, causing higher blood pressure, increased risks of heart diseases and chronic stress, and those problems are still evident in today’s workforce, with an emphasis on emotional stresses. Evolution
In the late 1800’s workers had the right to sue employers for compensation from on the job injuries. Action was rarely taken however, due to extremely high legal costs and long drawn out court dates, as well as the courts generally siding with the employers. It was the law that employers were not responsible for a workers accident if the worker contributed to the mishap in any way, if the worker’s co-workers contributed in any way, and that upon acceptance of the job the worker accepted certain risks and was to make his own financial arrangements in case of an accident. People couldn’t afford the risk to fight for their rights, and the companies were getting away with extremely dangerous working conditions. In 1914 Canada adopted its first modern workers compensation law, introduced by William Meredith. It was his recommendation that a no-fault system be put into place, which meant that a worker would be compensated for an injury whether it was his fault, the employers fault or a co-workers fault. He also recommended that injured workers be paid based on their lost wages; that the employer is responsible for payment of benefits in specified industries, and administration is done by an independent agency. In the 1970’s the Ontario government started a process to update the provinces’ health and safety laws, replacing all...
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