The testimony at the coroner’s inquest into the tragic and senseless deaths of three mushroom farm workers in 2008 is demonstrating one very clear fact.
The owners of the farm were negligent, loath to obeying basic safety rules and even court orders, and had no regard for the safety and lives of their employees.
Because their employees were recent immigrants, they were treated in a way that no employee should ever be treated in this country — certainly not in the 21st century.
The owners have already been fined in provincial court and it is unlikely that there will ever be any more charges laid against them. However, this inquest and the earlier court proceedings must not go to waste.
The provincial government and Worksafe B.C. must mount an extensive and permament campaign, to educate farm workers about basic safety. Any farm that has employees must have a health and safety committee, as is the case at other workplaces.
In addition, Worksafe B.C. must conduct random, unannounced checks on any business — farm or non-farm — that appears to ignore basic safety precautions.
While Worksafe must be understanding when running into minor violations, it must crack down on major ones, and must have the power to levy fines and even close businesses until proper safety conditions are in place.
No one should have to fear for their life, simply by going to work. Some workplaces are more dangerous than others — that is a given. But by adopting proper safety protocols, risks can be diminished and hopefully all but eliminated.
No amount of inspections and rules will change the attitudes of people who are determined to operate outside the law. However, they do understand money.
If their businesses are closed, they will begin to take safety seriously.