More than one B.C. worker died of a workplace injury every two days in 2022, which has ignited calls for action on the National Day of Mourning.
According to the BC Federation of Labour, 241 workers lost their lives as a consequence of their jobs last year, which is the highest yearly death total in the last decade.
The concerning number of deaths has the federation, which represents 500,000 workers through affiliated unions, urging the government to expand WorkSafeBC coverage to all workers.
“We urgently need to bring all workers under WCB protection and coverage and strengthen prevention, inspection, enforcement, investigation and penalties,” staff said in a release.
“Changes are long overdue to treat psychological and physical injuries with the same high standard of access, respect and dignity, and to ease the struggles injured workers face as they return to work.”
Asbestos remains the leading workplace killer in British Columbia, the organization said.
The National Day of Mourning was established as a national observance in 1991 to remember workers who died or were injured in workplace incidents and to recommit to ensuring that safety in the workplace remains an essential priority for all Canadians.
Events were held in Vancouver, Kelowna, Kamloops, Victoria and many other locations across the province.
In Vancouver, B.C. Premier David Eby spoke at the event.
“Every person deserves a safe place to work,” he said.
“If people aren’t safe at work, then none of us are safe. The number one response has to be prevention.”
Eby pointed to recent changes made to protect workers, especially youth, as efforts being made by the province.
“We have brought in new rules to protect youth from work that is too hazardous for them, such as forestry, food processing and certain construction jobs,” he said.
“Additionally, we have changed the law to make it easier for workers to organize at work and have more say in workplace safety. We are also bringing in new licensing and certification requirements for asbestos abatement contractors and workers to ensure they have the knowledge and skills to safely do their jobs.
“We know there is more work to do to better protect people, and we are committed to doing that work.”