Candles were lit, wreaths laid and commemorative pins, ribbons and black armbands were worn to remember thousands of workers killed, injured and suffering illnesses from work-related incidents.
Hundreds of Londoners and politicians gathered at the Tolpuddle Building for the National Day of Mourning on Friday.
Parliment passed the Workers Mourning Day Act in 1991, which made April 28 the official day to honour and remember workers.
The ceremony began at 10 a.m. followed by a moment of silence at 11 a.m.
“Workers in this province are the backbone of the community,” Irene Mathyssen, NDP MP for London-Fanshawe, said. “If we didn’t have bus drivers, if we didn’t have teachers [or] nurses. All of those people who contribute to the safety and well-being of this community. We have to be concerned about their safety too.”
According to the Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada (AWCBC), approximately 852 workplace deaths took place in 2015.
Four workers ages 15 to 19 and eleven workers between the ages 20 to 24 were among those killed on the job.
“[This summer] will be the first time [on a job site] for many young people,” Peggy Sattler, NDP MPP for London-West, said. “Health and safety training for young workers is particularly critical.”
In addition to the fatalities, the AWCBC notes that 232, 629 claims were accepted for lost time due to a work-related injury or disease, which includes 8,155 from young workers.
However, the organization stated that the number of workers impacted is higher considering the claims that were not reported and accepted.
According to Dan Stephens, chair of the London and District Labour Council, talking about deaths and injuries in the workplace is uncomfortable and can result in nervous laughter.
“If it makes you nervous, think about what you are going to do to prevent it,” Stephens said. “Don’t shrug it off with laughter, which makes you feel better about it. If it makes you uncomfortable, there is a reason for it and you need to address it.”
The AWCBC stated that there is not only an impact on the workers, but also their loved ones, families, friends and coworkers.
“[There are basic steps that can be taken.] Can I help you? Do you need help? If they say no, you need to pull yourself back from that. If they say yes, then there is a sequence of things that you go through to support them, which starts by being emotionally supportive,” Stephens said. “Outside that, [is] there something physically that you can do?”
Currently, the Day of Mourning is recognized by approximately 100 countries as Workers’ Memorial Day.