Emterra trucks in Chilliwack. Swampers who work on garbage and recycling trucks are not required to wear head protection nor are restraints required if the truck is travelling below 20 km/hr. There were 38 swamper injuries between 2013 and 2017 in Chilliwack, six of them serious. (Paul Henderson)

Two dozen ‘swampers’ a year injured on the job in Fraser Valley

FOI of WorkSafeBC shows injury stats on garbage workers in Chilliwack, Abbotsford, Mission, Agassiz

It was Daniel Winston’s sixth shift as a swamper on a recycling truck when he was thrown from the back on Nov. 29, 2017.

He suffered a serious and life-altering head injury.

And while Winston’s injury was severe and rare, less serious swamper injuries are not uncommon. In the Eastern Fraser Valley – Abbotsford, Mission, Chilliwack and Agassiz – there are approximately 25 swamper injuries a year, three of them serious, according to WorkSafeBC statistics obtained by Black Press through a freedom of information request (FOI).

There were a total of 123 swamper injuries in the region between 2013 and 2017 (the last full year for which data was available), 14 of those serious.

In Chilliwack, there were 38 injuries in that time frame, six of them serious, including Winston. In Abbotsford, there were 81 injuries, 11 considered serious. In Mission, there were seven, none serious. And there was one swamper injured in Agassiz.

• READ MORE: ‘Marathon not a sprint’ recovery for Chilliwack swamper who fell off recycling truck

• READ MORE: GoFundMe started for Chilliwack man seriously injured in recycling truck incident

(A swamper is the term generally used to describe an employee who rides on the back of a garbage or recycling truck, but it also includes the drivers as well as delivery truck drivers and helpers.)

This information on swamper injuries comes out after ceremonies were held across B.C. to honour lost workers. Thousands of people attended events on April 28, including in Chilliwack, for the Day of Mourning to remember those who lost their lives on the job.

• READ MORE: Union group holds Day of Mourning celebration in Chilliwack

Overall there were 1,179 total number of WorkSafeBC claims in the province between 2013 and 2018 for the occupation that involves garbage workers. Of those, 39 per cent came from overexertion, 12 per cent were fall from elevation, 11 per cent “struck by”, 11 per cent fall from same level, and seven per cent motor vehicle incidents.

The Progress asked WorkSafeBC why swampers were not required to wear hard hats or other head protection, and why they are not required to use a restraint to attach them to the back of garbage trucks.

“The Occupational Health and Safety Regulation (OHSR) requires employers to do a workplace evaluation to determine appropriate protective equipment,” a WorkSafeBC spokesperson explained. “According to the OHSR and Workers’ Compensation Act, hard hats are required where there is the risk of head injury from falling, flying or thrown objects or other harmful contacts.

“With respect to the use of restraints, workers working as ‘swampers’ are exempted from the requirements to use a safety belt during short pickup runs at speeds of less than 20 km/h. The exemption would not be effective for extended travel or exceeding 20 km/h.”

The incident involving Winton’s injuries while on an Emterra truck is still under investigation by a WorkSafeBC fatal and serious injuries team, according to a spokesperson.

Just 12 days before Winston’s accident, another swamper was injured on an Emterra truck, this time in Yarrow when a worker was “compressed” between the unit and cedar hedging.

A WorkSafeBC inspection report obtained by The Progress found Emterra Environmental violated four Workers Compensation Act (WCA) regulations and two Occupational Health and Safety Regulations (OHSR).

The company was not fined.

As for Daniel Winston, his wife Catherine said this week that he is still in a care home requiring 24/7 care.

“Because of his frontal lobe injury he’s unable to make logical and safe decisions, is impulsive, can’t control thoughts, doesn’t understand social etiquette or even cues,” she said, adding that physically he is fine, but cognitively he is not the same person.

“It’s been life-changing for both of us. Heartbreaking in that Daniel’s physically here but the Daniel I married and loved is not.”

She said WorkSafeBC and RCMP investigators are still in contact with her, and neither investigation is closed.

• READ MORE: Trash collection company violated rules when Chilliwack worker hurt


@PeeJayAitch
paul.henderson@theprogress.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

 

RCMP on the scene of a Nov. 29, 2017 incident that saw Emterra swamper Daniel Winston seriously injured when he fell off the back on Kipp Avenue downtown Chilliwack. (Paul Henderson/ Progress file)

CVSE inspectors on the scene of the Nov. 29, 2017 incident that saw a swamper seriously injured when he fell off the back on Kipp Avenue downtown Chilliwack. (Paul Henderson/ Progress file)

Just Posted

Harrison looks to test viability of solar power

Harrison has applied for a grant to see whether solar power is an option for its village buildings

Funding uncertain, but Agassiz’s Storytime in the Park will go on, organizer says

The literacy program takes place each summer in Agassiz, Harrison and Seabird Island

Hang gliding video gives stunning view of Harrison and Fraser river confluence

Aerial view shows striking difference between two rivers as they meet

Young Chilliwack singer launches career with French classic

Deanne Ratzlaff performs as featured vocalist in La Vie en Rose in Chilliwack, London and Paris

The most h-i-l-a-r-i-o-u-s spelling bee you’ll ever see in Chilliwack

Secondary Characters Musical Theatre hits the stage with The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

VIDEO: Agassiz remembers local officer at grave-marking ceremony

Montague White-Fraser had been buried in the Old Cemetery for 92 years without a headstone

Police identify pair found dead along highway in northern B.C.

Woman from the U.S. and man from Australia found dead near Liard Hot Springs

Trudeau announces $79M investment for 118 more public transit buses across B.C.

Contributions from municipal to federal level to fund more buses in a bid to cut commutes

Justin Trudeau’s carbon footprint revealed in ranking of world leaders

Travel company ranks 15 world leaders’ foreign flight CO2 emissions

B.C. First Nation’s group using ads in Texas targeting company for fuel spill

The Heiltsuk Tribal Council has called out Kirby Corporation for the Nathan E. Stewart oil spill

B.C. woman wins record $2.1 million on casino slot machine

‘That night was so surreal … I wasn’t able to sleep or eat for the first two days,’ she said

After B.C. dad’s death, Technical Safety BC wants changes to trampoline park rules

Jay Greenwood, 46, did ‘a series of acrobatic manoeuvres prior to a fall that caused serious injury and cardiac arrest’

Cars keyed on BC Ferries after alarms bother dog on board

Delta police arrested one passenger on suspicion of mischief

$900M settlement reached in class action on sexual misconduct in Canadian military

After facing criticism, the government moved to begin settlement proceedings in early 2018

Most Read