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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

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

SLIDESHOW: Abbotsford’s fourth annual Open Mosque Day

Abbotsford Islamic Centre opens its doors to educate others

Two prolific offenders from Alberta lead RCMP on chase across Fraser Valley

Men first reported in Chilliwack ending with allegedly stolen vehicle in an Abbotsford pond

Arson charge laid in connection to Mission Canadian Tire fire

Charges of Arson with disregard for human life have been laid against 26-year-old Quince Chalifoux

Suspect rams Mission RCMP while attempting to flee

Integrated Police Dog Service called in to help locate and take man into custody

Another Abbotsford resident defrauded with elaborate phone scam

Thieves steal almost $16,000 from one resident, the tenth known victim in last 5 month

VIDEO: Behind the scenes of turning newspapers into digital archives

Kelowna Capital News donated materials dating from 1980 to 2000

Landlord ordered to pay $11K after harassing B.C. mom to move days after giving birth

Germaine Valdez was pressured to move just a few days after giving birth by C-section to her child

Heart attacks strike B.C. husband and wife just over one year apart

Courtenay couple share personal stories to bring awareness to heart month

‘Nothing surprises us anymore:’ U.S. border officials find brain in package

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents found the brain packed in a glass mason jar in a Canada Post shipment

VIDEO: Giants winning streak now stands at 11

Team erased a 5-2 deficit by scoring every five minutes

Fiery collision involving truck closes Highway 1 at Three Valley Gap

Drivers should expect major delays and congestion; estimated time of re-opening is 2 p.m.

B.C., Ottawa sign sweeping 30-year deal for northern caribou habitat

West Moberly, Saulteau co-manage new protection on two million acres

Eyes on police after Trudeau orders blockades torn down, injunctions enforced

The RCMP in B.C. have sent a letter to the traditional leaders of the Wet’suwet’en Nation

B.C. massage therapist suspended following allegations of sexual misconduct

While suspended, Leonard Krekic is not entitled to practice as an RMT in B.C.

Most Read