Two bricklayers were killed when a hydraulic scaffold — also known as a mastclimber –malfunctioned at a Toronto condo project, just a few days after another mastclimber disaster in Raleigh, NC, killed three.
Ontario’s Labour Minister Kevin Flynn and the ministry’s chief prevention officer, George Gritziotis, issued a joint news release on Friday afternoon to confirm an investigation has been launched.
“We want to express our deepest sympathies to the families, friends and colleagues of the individuals who lost their lives. No one should go to work in the morning and not come home at the end of the day,” the statement said.
“Construction shouldn’t be a dangerous job if safety rules are properly followed,” Patrick Dillon, business manager of the Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council of Ontario said in a statement. “This is yet another tragic reminder of why we need tougher prevention and enforcement of safety rules.”
“Our thoughts are with the families and workers who have been affected by this tragedy,” Dillon said. “It was just five short years ago four workers lost their lives and one was injured in another scaffold collapse on Kipling Avenue. Have we not learned anything in that time?”
As a result of the Kipling Avenue tragedy the province appointed former Cabinet Secretary Tony Dean to lead an expert panel to look into worker health and safety. The report made 46 recommendations for improving worker safety in the province in December 2010.
“Prevention was the focus of the Dean report and nearly five years later we continue to see industrial and construction deaths at the same level with no real decrease,” Dillon pointed out. “If we haven’t been able to make a dent in the number of worker deaths in this province then we need to shake things up.”
“Organized labour has been calling on the government to put teeth into safety legislation so employers will understand the importance of safety and not just factor it into the cost of doing business,” Dillon said. “Not one owner or director has been jailed in Ontario over the death of a worker, yet close to 100 workers die each year at their workplace, many as a result of safety violations.”
“The people involved in the Kipling Avenue tragedy pleaded guilty to criminal manslaughter and only received a fine,” Dillon said. “If a worker was charged with criminal manslaughter you could be sure they would face substantial jail time. We need a culture shift in this province that puts an equal value for every life, worker or other.”
Dillon called on the government to put meaningful rules in place to prevent these tragedies. “We have too many widows and orphans in this province as a result of workplace deaths,” he said. “We need leadership and effective laws that will ensure workers who arrive for work in the morning go back home at night to their loved ones.”
Several climbing platforms ring the nearly-completed building. State safety officials want the general contractor have an engineer assess those systems before they return to service.
“We have asked that the other scaffolds not be used,” Kevin Beauregard, assistant deputy commissioner at the Labor Department, told a Raleigh newspaper. “We don’t want to put anyone else in harm’s way.”