Last year Saskatchewan saw 48 workplace deaths, according to the Saskatchewan Workers' Compensation Board.

The 2018 number was an increase of 78 per cent from 2017, where only 27 workplace deaths occurred.

Phillip Germain, the vice-president of prevention and employer services with the Saskatchewan Workers' Compensation Board said that the increase was due to a number of factors.

"The fatalities were up across the board, but there were a couple of anomalies that would cause the number to jump out compared to other years," he said. "There were maybe six to eight fatalities that were technically 2017 fatalities."

Germain said that even with those added fatalities, 2018 was still a big increase.

The leading cause of workplace fatalities in the province was occupational disease and motor vehicle incidents.

"42 percent are occupational disease related," he said. "Almost 100 per cent of those were exposures that happened many years ago over many years. In some cases like asbestos exposure, people really didn't know they were exposing themselves to a hazardous product until many years later."

The majority of that 42 per cent are asbestos exposure, but the rest were firefighter related cancers which is on the rise, according to Germain.

He added that they currently are in the process of introducing new strategies.

"Work is being done with the firefighters across municipalities to do an assessment to understand what the current practices are as it relates to exposure to chemicals that cause cancer, and what are some of the things that fire halls could do to reduce those exposures."

Germain says that there is nothing that they can really do for those who are currently battling those effects, but they are focused on prevention.

As for motor vehicle collisions, Saskatchewan Workers' Compensation Board is working with SGI and the Saskatchewan Trucking Association to reduce motor vehicle fatalities in the workplace.

Germain said that occupational diseases and motor vehicle collisions combine for about 60 to 70 per cent of fatalities.

With the increase in deaths, the Saskatchewan WBC also saw the total injury rate in 2018 increase 5.44 per 100 workers. A 3.6 per cent increase from 2017.

Germain said that the top cause of injuries in the workplace was ergonomic-related.

In the past two years, over 22,000 people have been injured in the workplace, something that has been declining steadily in the past decade as, in 2013, there were over 31,000 workplace injuries.

"All the safety partners out there have done a good job," said Germain on the decreasing numbers. "The challenge we are starting to is see things start to level out."

Germain said that with injuries and fatalities going up this year, they are looking to stop the increase before it becomes a possible trend.

"We don't want that trend to continue on, so we are taking some serious looks at our strategies," he said. "We are working with our partners to develop new strategies. We've already started to work on through some of our partnerships to try and get fatalities serious injuries and injuries going back and in the right direction downwards."

Germain said that there is a lot that both employers and themselves can do to start the trend downwards once again.

"We kind of made assumptions several years ago that helping employers identify hazards would cause all types of injuries including fatalities to drop - that hasn't really happened," he said.

"We are rethinking it, and I think it requires us to help some employers that are having serious injuries and fatalities to really technically understand what is going on. We have to figure out a way to help employers understand that in certain situations there's just zero tolerance for error and how do we help them get the right information and translate that information to help their workers work safely every day."

Germain adds he thinks that there is always more they can do to help educate those in the workplace to spot potential problems before they become a reality.