the issue: WSCC communication

we say: Pick up the phone

One of the biggest safety issues facing workers in the NWT is the Workers’ Safety and Compensation Commission’s (WSCC) inability to use a telephone. Or email. Or any other way to communicate with the families of those killed on the job effectively.

Earlier this month, the Vinnicombe family traveled to Yellowknife to take part int he National Day of Mourning, on behalf of their son, 19-year-old David Vinnicombe. He died in a heavy machinery accident in Inuvik last June.

His father, Robbie, says there’s “lots of room for improvement” when it comes to how the WSCC keeps families in the loop. He told Yellowknifer his family had little information about the investigation into his son’s accident, leading them to believe it wasn’t effective.

That poses a risk for future workers too: as Robbie explained, a “shoddy” job investigating his son’s death could lead to another fatality down the track. If the WSCC can’t even explain adequately to the family, how can the public trust they’re doing everything they can to safeguard workers on the job?

The family has encouraged the minister of justice and the minister responsible for the WSCC to hire an ombudsman. Currently, there is no ombudsman– who investigates and reports on whether government agencies have followed policies and procedures– in the NWT.

But almost more importantly, the WSCC must keep families in the loop. The families and loved ones of workers killed on the job suffer. While the system grinds on, the families are left in the dark, not knowing why their loved one died, if anyone is to blame, and what’s being done to make sure no other families are shoved in the dark with them. If the WSCC isn’t keeping those lines of communication constantly open and flowing with families, it is suffering a public relations failure.

And there’s no reason this should be happening: the WSCC is a well-funded body. As David’s aunt Jacqui Vinnicombe told Yellowknifer, just because we’re in the North doesn’t mean we should expect anything less.

After all, lives are at risk.