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January 9, 2018

Bentall Memorial honours workers killed during the Vancouver tower construction 37 years ago

It has been 37 years since the deaths of four construction workers during the building of Vancouver’s Bentall Centre, and as people gathered to remember the dead the B.C. Building Trades Council called for an increased emphasis on safety in the industry.

“Every year, we gather to remember the lives of carpenters Gunther Couvreux, Brian Stevenson, Donald Davis and Yrjo Mitrunen,” Tom Sigurdson, executive director of the B.C. Building Trades Council, said in a press release.

The council represents the unionized sector of the construction industry, comprising 27 affiliated trade unions chartered by 13 international unions.

The four men died on Jan. 7, 1981 after the fly form they were standing collapsed and they fell 36 floors.

“And every year, we are reminded that construction workers continue to die as a result of workplace trauma and exposure,” Sigurdson said. “Workplace safety must be made a priority.”

He notes that in the nearly four decades since the deaths, more than 1,000 construction workers in B.C. have died as a result of injuries sustained on the job, or disease resulting from exposure. Last year was a particularly deadly one for the industry —2017 saw 44 work-related construction deaths, a 42 per cent increase over 2016.

The 1982 inquiry into the deaths of the four men called for compulsory safety training, yet the occupational fatality rate for construction workers is still three times the provincial average, Sigurdson said.

“At some point, we have to ask ourselves why,” he added. “With the proper emphasis on safety, training and enforcement, all of these deaths could have been prevented.”

Keep reading in the Vancouver Courier