Bentall IV memorial marks 33rd anniversary

Bental IV 2014 (3)On January 7th 2014, exactly 33 years after the tragedy, IUOE Local 115 and other labour leaders, family members and workers joined together to remember four workers killed while working on the Bentall IV tower in 1981 when a fly form gave way and they plummeted 36 storeys to their untimely death.

The loss of Gunther Couvreux (49), Donald W. Davis (34), Yrjo Mitrunen (46) and Brian Stevenson (21) is considered to be one of the worst and most controversial construction incidents in BC’s history, especially given the way the employer covered evidence and the resulting changes in construction safety regulations.

Some 867 more workers in BC have died as a result from construction work since then.

The occasion was highlighted by a video put together by WorkSafeBC which interviewed the family members of those killed 33 years ago. The moving tribute showed the effect the tragedy had on workers, the province and the industry, and is shown below.

The Bentall IV memorial is an annual reminder that workplace safety and employer accountability are aspects of every construction worker’s life that cannot be overlooked nor taken for granted. Every year in BC, dozens of workers die as as a result of trauma or long term illnesses brought on by the dangerous conditions of their careers, and speakers at the memorial stressed how these numbers are unacceptable.

“The industry today I believe is  safer than it was 33 years ago” says Al Johnson, Vice President of Prevention Services at WorkSafeBC.

“Our fatality rates or deaths on the job are down in comparison to years ago, our injury rates are down, and that’s all good news, but those are statistics. One death is one too many.”

Tom Sigurdson, Executive Director of the BC Building Trades, believes training, increased inspections, and more enforcement of employers is needed. “There are contractors out there that, for the sake of greed, will sacrifice safety, and that just has to be stopped” he says.

“There have to be laws in place and enforcement that’s going to ensure that those kind of contractors are taken out of the industry completely. They have no place in our industry.”