Hundreds of people gathered in 40 B.C. communities on Saturday for a Day of Mourning to honour those who have been injured or lost their lives on the job.
In Vancouver, the Olympic cauldron at Jack Poole Plaza was lit, and a small crowd braved the rain to hear speakers from the labour and business community, along with family members of victims of workplace accidents.
“The National Day of Mourning serves as a sad reminder that we have to do more to keep workers safe. It highlights the need for all of us to make workplace safety our first priority,” Labour Minister Harry Bains said in a statement.
Among the speakers was Rosmarie Lachnit, whose son Nicholas died in a fall at a Vancouver construction site in 2004.
“The accident should have never taken place, the company that he was working for didn’t have proper safety protocols put in place,” she told Global News.
“I would like to have other young workers and their families be aware they have rights, and they shouldn’t do stuff they feel is dangerous because you’ll die. My son did, and my life is never ever going to be the same.”
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Lachnit said that years later, she still feels employers and employees don’t take workplace safety seriously enough. She said she’d like to see workplace safety included in B.C.’s school curriculum.
“People really don’t like talking about people dying at work, it’s kind of like it’s taboo. People get very uncomfortable,” she said.
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“I like to talk about my son, he was awesome. And I point out to as many people as I see doing stuff that is harmful to them that my son died doing something that he shouldn’t be doing. And it’s the families who are left behind.”
WorkSafeBC says it accepted 158 work-related death claims last year, down about 30 per cent from 1996. It says while deaths from serious injuries are on the decline, those from occupational disease are rising.
“Mourning is not enough,” BC Federation of Labour president Irene Lanzinger said. “This day is also a call to action — to renew our commitment to healthier and safer workplaces, to eliminating preventable work-related tragedies, and to demand that injured workers and surviving dependents are dignified with full compensation.”
“They all have the right to a safe workplace and it is everyone’s responsibility to ensure that is provided each and every day,” added Greg D’Avignon, president and CEO, Business Council of B.C. (BCBC).
This year marks the 21st year WorkSafeBC, the BCBC and the BC Federation of Labour have come together to hold a ceremony for the Day of Mourning in Vancouver.
The day was created in 1984 by the Canadian Labour Congress, and was officially designated as a national observance in 1991.