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Our blog discussing workplace safety opportunities in Nova Scotia and around the world.

First WCB Annual Report describes worker impact of Halifax explosion

As the 100th anniversary of the Halifax Explosion is commemorated this week, we thought we’d take a look back in our archives to see how our organization, which also marks its 100th anniversary this year, supported the explosion recovery efforts. 

Many of those who died or were injured on December 6th, 1917, were at work. Most of Halifax’s industrial activity was centered at that time in the city’s north end, where more than 2.5 square kilometers were levelled by the explosion, or by the tsunami and fires that followed. In addition to the many homes and churches destroyed, there were also offices, factories, vessels, the railway station and the rail yard.

Our 1917 annual report – the first we ever published – says that early estimates of the benefits payable to workers who were killed or injured, totaled $850,000 – that’s roughly $12 million in present-day dollars, given an average 2.7% inflation rate over 100 years. 

Ultimately the disaster was determined to be war related, and all costs, including workers’ compensation benefits, were paid by the national Relief Commission. Here’s an excerpt from our 1917 Annual Report, which describes how benefits were paid, and how employers were relieved from any associated increases in assessments:

It’s interesting to note that the same Annual Report also recorded the impact of two other major Nova Scotia workplace tragedies: the New Waterford mine disaster on July 15, 1917 claimed the lives of 65 workers, while the Stellarton mine disaster, which claimed 88 lives, happened on January 23rd, 1918.

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