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Companies pressed to do more to prevent worker deaths

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December 4th, 2014 is a day Melanie Moore will never forget. It’s the day one of her employees at Heritage Roofing fell to his death while at work in Clairmont.

21 year old Tyler Robar had been shovelling snow off a roof before he plunged 20 feet. Since then, Moore has made it her mission to not only improve the safety at her company, but to encourage others to do the same.

“I think most companies just do enough to get by and follow the rules with [Occupational Health and Safety], and what I want people to understand is that we have to go above and beyond to make our workers safe. As well, I think that workers are afraid to speak out and say that they’re feeling that they have unsafe or are being put in an unsafe situation.”

Moore shared her story at the national Day of Mourning ceremony Friday morning in Grande Prairie. More than 85 people gathered at Safety City to honour workers who have been injured, gotten ill, or been killed on the job.

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Leah-Ann Maybee with the Alberta Construction Safety Association says the day is also about working to prevent further injuries, illnesses and deaths. She stresses that both employers and employees need to take the time to do things right, and not value production over safety.

“They’ve been programmed to get the job done as quick as you can and get on to the next thing, and that breeds shortcuts, and that breeds unsafe acts; it breeds unsafe conditions and ultimately puts people’s lives at risk.”

Maybee has experienced a fatality on a work site, and says looking back, it probably could have been prevented if people hadn’t been rushing to get home at the end of the day. Moore explains that the death of her employee changed her attitude towards safety at work.

“I’m responsible every day for everybody that goes out from my office. They are like my family and it’s a real huge loss when you lose somebody, no matter what the circumstances might be. With this circumstance it was even more painful because I could have prevented it.”

Moore encourages other companies not to be complacent, and employees to speak up when they don’t feel comfortable with their working conditions. She adds that any death affects a much larger number of people, and only two of the people working at the time of Robar’s death are still with the company, as they were affected deeply.

144 lives were lost at work in Alberta in 2016, and there were three deaths in the City and County of Grande Prairie. On or off the job, Maybee stresses that safety is more important than production.

“I want people to remember that it’s just a paycheque; your families, your friends, your life is much more important.”

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