On December 24th, four construction workers were killed when the swing-stage platform they were working on snapped and they plummeted 13 stories. Fayzullo Fazilov, 31, of Uzbekistan; Aleksey Blumberg, 33, of Ukraine; Alexander Bondorev, 25, originally from Latvia; and Vladimir Korostin, 40, from Uzbekistan were killed instantly. Another worker, 21-year-old Dilshod Marupov, hung on to the equipment and survived the fall, though his legs were broken and his spine shattered.

CBC News reports that the Ministry of Labour had shut down this construction site in October due to safety concerns; the company, Metron Construction, stated that it complied with the orders and that the ministry lifted its stop-work order the following day. The ministry issued a second stop-work order on December 17th due to concerns about a swing stage, though it was not the swing stage involved in the workers’ deaths days later. (A picture of the deadly broken swing stage – which has been widely referred to in news reports as scaffolding – accompanies this CTV news story.)

According to Toronto police, the four victims were wearing harnesses, but they were not connected to a solid structure. Michael Yorke, president of the Carpenters and Allied Workers Local 27, stated that the tragedy could have been prevented if the workers had been properly trained and equipped.

A crowd of approximately 200 gathered at the site of the tragedy at a vigil to “pay their respects and call for safe working conditions for all workers, including those in the country illegally,” reports the Toronto Star’s Tanya Talaga. A member of the group No One is Illegal, which organized the vigil, read a statement from Oksana Afanasenko, wife of victim Aleksey Blumberg, stating that workers who are in the country illegally often don’t report unsafe conditions because they fear deportation.

In other news:

New York Times: Sexual harassment and assault at US military bases is a problem that the military is working to address, but a Pentagon task force has criticized the military’s prevention efforts.

National Cancer Institute: NCI researchers report that a study of workers from plants that use or produce formaldehyde found “the risk of death from myeloid leukemia was 78 percent higher among industrial workers with the highest peak exposures compared to those with the lowest peak exposures.”

India Today: Researchers at the Osmania University in Hyderabad found that traffic policemen, who are exposed to vehicular pollution for several hours each day, face a higher risk of chromosomal changes associated with cancer.

New York Times: A federal jury awarded $10 million apiece to 10 workers who reported suffering health problems after a 2007 release of a toxic substance from BP’s Texas City plant – the same facility where a 2005 explosion killed 15 workers and injured 170.

International Labour Organization: The ILO has adopted a new list of occupational diseases in an effort to help countries prevent, track, and compensate these ailments.