Mr. Speaker, today is the first day of a special week for all Canadians. This is a time when we are asked to reflect upon and take action to prevent the accidents in the workplace which are still claiming too many victims.
For the tenth consecutive year, we are celebrating Canadian Occupational Health and Safety Week, the theme for which this year is "Training-Target Zero Accidents".
The issue of safety and health of millions of workers in our country is of primary importance. Is it acceptable that each year some 700 people lose their lives at work? Should we accept that nearly 800,000 persons are injured or mutilated as a result of accidents that occur in their workplace?
Should we not be shocked to learn that 15 million working days are lost as a result of accidents? Should we accept that the Canadian economy supports as much as $10 billion compensation for such accidents?
These figures trouble me deeply. Beyond those cold statistics, there is much suffering, the suffering of persons who are sick or injured, the suffering of their families, the terrible grief of the families that have lost a loved one in tragic circumstances.
This concerns me very directly. My responsibilities include the safety and health of nearly one million Canadian workers, one
million Canadian men and women. It is my responsibility to ensure acts and regulations governing employees under federal jurisdiction are respected. I intend to do everything in my power to make sure they are.
However, these rules alone cannot guarantee workplace safety. At most, they provide a framework. The solution can be found in two words: training and information. The situation will improve only if each worker, each employer assumes his or her own responsibilities in this regard.
In addition, I know that my officials put time and energy into providing assistance and information to people in their workplaces. They also provide a great deal of training aimed at eliminating the causes of accidents. Moreover, I know that their provincial colleagues do the same.
This is not enough. It will never be enough. I repeat, occupational health and safety are ultimately the responsibility of each person who has a role to play in the workplace. That includes all members of Parliament.
It is impossible to ensure constantly that a worker wears his hard hat or protective eye wear if he is not aware of the importance of doing so. It is impossible to force employers to personally and constantly oversee the safety of their employees. Employers and employees must accomplish this task together. They can be given information, trained and brought back into line, but it will never be possible for any government organization to do everything in this regard.
The jobs of many employees are threatened and they sometimes take unnecessary risks for fear of losing their job. What a paradox.
Employers, for their part, are facing increasingly fierce competition. They fall prey to the temptation to Ignore safety rules, in order to speed up the work and save money. This is human, but still unacceptable regardless of the economic environment.
I know that, like me, the hon. members of this House cannot help but be moved by the scope of this drama that is being played out in our workplaces. One in fifteen workers is injured each year. On average, there are two occupational accidents every minute. We must do all we can to improve this sad record.
Mr. Speaker, I wish to thank you, as well as my colleagues, for the role they will be playing this week and all year round in saving lives and preventing accidents so that our workers can be safe in their workplaces.