Day of Mourning raises workplace safety awareness

It’s still painful for Lisa Arlint to think of the day she lost her father in a workplace accident nearly seven years ago.

It was only five days before Christmas when her father, Rusty Testawitch, died on the job in northeastern B.C.

A tree he was falling came down on him and pinned him for four hours before his brother discovered him. He died moments later.

“We still miss my dad dearly. I think about him every day,” said Arlint.

She said more safety officers were needed at the worksite and there weren’t enough precautions to protect workers. Arlint wants people to realize the importance of workplace safety and that employers and employees take every possible measure to ensure safety.

This Saturday (April 28), Arlint, who lives in Grovedale, Alta., will speak about her loss during the Annual Day of Mourning service at Pioneer Plaza, starting at 1 p.m.

The event will also feature Gord Tuck, of Lake Cowichan, who lost his left leg in a workplace accident in 1991.

Tuck started downhill skiing during his rehabilitation and participated in the Winter Paralympic Games in 1998 and 2002 and the World Championships in 2000 and 2004, winning silver in downhill alpine skiing.

Bob Smits, administrator for the Nanaimo, Duncan and District Labour Council, said the Annual Day of Mourning is important to recognize workers who suffered an injury or death and the effects it’s had on their families.

“We get about three workers [in B.C.] dying a week and that is too many,” said Smits.

Smits said the labour council is working to have companies held accountable for workplace accidents if they are found negligent. Federal legislation has changed in the last four years, he said, and there are avenues to prosecute companies found negligent.

In 2010, 1,014 workplace deaths were recorded in Canada, up from 939 in 2009.

The day of mourning was recognized by the federal government in 1991 and according to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, has since spread to 80 countries.

“We honour and remember those workers who didn’t make it home at the end of their work day as well as their families who have suffered the loss of a loved one to a traumatic fatality or an occupation disease,” said Scott McCloy, WorkSafeBC spokesman, in a press release. “On Saturday, we will renew our ongoing commitment to workplace health and safety with the belief that any workplace injury is unacceptable and absolutely preventable.”

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