A Day of Mourning ceremony was held to remember workers who have died on the job and to build awareness to try to prevent workplace injuries, illnesses and deaths.
Around 100 people gathered at Nanaimo’s Pioneer Waterfront Plaza on Friday, April 28, for the event hosted by the Nanaimo Duncan and District Labour Council. Several union reps and politicians address the dangers that continue to affect workers across the province.
According to labour council president Jenn MacPherson, in 2022, four workers died in Nanaimo, 19 on Vancouver Island and 181 across B.C., up from 161 in 2021.
“One workplace death is one too many. I look forward for the year where we don’t have to get together to honour the workers that didn’t come home,” she said. “Workplace injuries, illnesses and fatalities are preventable, and must never be seen as ‘just a part of the job.’ Data shows that workplace [casualties] are likely severely under-reported.”
Mike Milholm, WorkSafe B.C. representative, said more than 100 deaths were caused by asbestos-related disease and seven deaths from COVID-19. He said occupational disease remains the single leading cause of death to workers in B.C.
“Employers need to ensure their workers voices are heard by engaging them in the organization’s health and safety approach, asking for their input in unsafe conditions and inviting them to find solutions,” said Milholm.
Mayor Leonard Krog thanked the council for the ceremony, adding that “if we learned anything from COVID, everybody’s job is important in our lives.” He said his father was killed in a work accident, along with three others, 65 years ago this month.
“Workers need to be empowered to know their rights, use tools to hold their employers to their duty to ensure a safe workplace,” said MacPherson, who also represents the B.C. Ferry and Marine Workers’ Union.
She hopes conversations like the ones at the Day of Mourning will lead to better decision-making in the workplace and encourage more workers to stand for their rights.Follow @Baileyseymour02