Union Wants Companies Accountable for Worker Deaths

Union officials want legislation in Canada that would make corporate executives liable for criminal or negligent acts that happen under their watch.

Union officials are intensifying efforts to lobby Ottawa, Canada for legislation that would make corporate executives and managers liable for criminal or negligent acts that happen under their watch.

Stephen Hunt of the United Steelworkers of American said Thursday that negligent bosses should share the same liability as people who drink, get behind the wheel and kills someone.

He also called for an immediate inquiry into the death of one of 12 workers hurt last week in a smelter blast in northern Manitoba.

"I''ve always said there can only be one good thing that comes out of a worker''s death and that is to ensure that we don''t repeat it and someone else doesn''t die unnecessarily," said Hunt.

A spokesman for Canada Workplace Health and Safety said the death of the worker won''t change the nature of the investigation.

"From the very start we''ve viewed this in a very serious light," he said.

Two workers who were in critical condition in a hospital in Edmonton were upgraded slightly last week to serious condition.

Another man remained in serious condition in Winnipeg. Two others were in good and stable condition. The remaining six were treated and released shortly after the blast.

Investigators haven''t yet determined the cause of the Manitoba explosion and haven''t blamed anyone.

Hunt said the rules on mine safety in that area need to be strengthened as a result of this recent explosion.

The key question in the investigation centers on the practice of hosing down the smelter''s main furnace to cool it off.

The company, Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting, said that'' s been common practice for 70 years, but union officials disagree.

The union and many of its members believe water was applied too early and mixed with still-molten metal at the base of the furnace to spark the explosion.

Workplace Health and Safety said a report on the incident is expected within a month.

by Virginia Sutcliffe

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