OHS Canada Magazine

Number of workers killed on the job is 10 times higher than official reports: WHSC

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May 2, 2023
By OHS Canada

Health & Safety WHSC

Photo: ASTA Concept/Adobe Stock

The number of workers killed because of their jobs last year was 10 times higher than the official number, according to the Workers Health and Safety Centre (WHSC).

Well in excess of 2,000 Ontarians died last year as a result of traumatic incidents and hazardous exposures at work, according to estimates supported by research evidence, it said in a press release.

“And even this alarming toll is a conservative estimate according to this same research evidence,” it said.

Yet, the province’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) recognized just 220 worker death claims in 2022 — and it noted that lower figure is often the “default statistic” shared when discussing the number of workers killed each year.

“This routine of under recognition in many ways is an affront to the suffering of workers, their families and communities,” said Andrew Mudge, executive director, Workers Health and Safety Centre (WHSC). “Failure to shed light on the true toll of suffering serves only to downplay the collective need to more aggressively pursue safer, healthier work through enhanced regulations, stronger regulatory enforcement and ultimately workplace prevention efforts.”


While most, if not all, traumatic deaths at work get reported to the WSIB, very few deaths caused by occupational disease are reported to or recognized by the WSIB, according to WHSC.

This is particularly the case for cancer, lung diseases and other chronic illnesses with long latency periods between workplace exposure(s) and disease onset. Consider, for instance, estimates suggesting between 600 and 5,000 Ontarians died in 2022 from work-related cancer alone, it said.

There is also under reporting and recognition of injuries and illness caused by mental health, violence, COVID-19 and other respiratory infections caused by workplace transmission.

“We recognize it is not the mandate of the WSIB to capture the true toll of suffering,” said Mudge. “We also recognize though a more accurate picture of worker deaths, injuries and illnesses must be prioritized and widely communicated.”


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