On-Site Magazine

Mourning construction worker deaths

By Adam Freill   

Construction Health & Safety

Memorial event has somber tone as industry records 35-year high for construction worker deaths, according to latest figures from WorkSafeBC

(Photo courtesy of the B.C. Building Trades)

Members of the B.C. Building Trades, its affiliate unions and political leaders gathered last week to honour those who have died working in the construction industry. And while the Bentall IV Memorial has been observed for many years, this year’s event was particularly somber. Over the past 35 years, there has never been a deadlier 12-month span for construction workers.

The latest work-related death statistics from WorkSafeBC show that 54 construction workers died in British Columbia in 2022, the latest year for which fatalities are confirmed. The 54 people who died, which includes 28 due to trauma and 26 due to exposure, represents a 74 per cent increase over the average number of annual construction worker deaths reported in the previous three decades.

“This is a staggering amount of death in the construction industry,” said Brynn Bourke, executive director of the B.C. Building Trades Council. “One worker dead is always one too many, but 54 people dying because of their job really points to fundamental issues that must be addressed. After 43 years, those lessons of safety, regulation and enforcement still have not been learned.”

The annual memorial event is held as a reminder of the need for safety measures and enforcement in the construction industry. On January 7, 1981, four construction workers died in a harrowing workplace accident. Carpenters Gunther Couvreux, Brian Stevenson, Donald Davis and Yrjo Mitrunen plunged 36 floors to their deaths when their fly form on the Bentall IV tower collapsed. It was a catastrophic incident that, to this day, illustrates the need for strict safety measures and enforcement on construction sites.


In the years since the Bentall tragedy, nearly 1,200 construction workers have died in the province due to workplace trauma or disease.





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