BY BILL PHILLIPS
About 75 people showed up this morning to pay their respects to those who have died or been injured on the job.
“We are making progress in prevention of death, injury, and sickness caused by workplace accidents,” said Don Iwaskow, president of the North Cariboo Labour Council at the annual Day of Mourning ceremonies. “However we have a long way to go.”
Iwaskow said there is fine line between a serious workplace injury and the alternative.
“To some a serious injury is defined as a life-altering injury,” he said. “To Steelworkers, a serious injury is a fatality where somebody got lucky … If we listen closely to someone with one of the life-altering injuries, we will always hear ‘just one inch, one way or the other, or just one moment, one way or the other, I would not be telling you this story today.”
He said making things more challenging is bullying and harassment in the workplace which, he added, sets the stage for serious incidents at work at home.
“We have an obligation to take steps to prevent these actions from taking place that can cause workers to lose focus on the task in front of them or cause more difficulties in their personal lives,” he said. “Bullying and harassment is more prevalent than ever before, thanks in large part to social media. When it takes place on the job, it produces even more danger and we must do whatever we can to prevent this from being the norm.”
Mayor Lyn Hall said when he first started working at a refinery while he was going to school, he didn’t think much about workplace safety until a co-worker got injured. At about the same time he lost a close friend to a workplace accident.
“It was a difficult, difficult time not only for us as a community but for his family and those who knew him very well,” he said. “Today we remember those who lost their lives to work related incidents or occupational disease. Today we renew our commitment to creating healthy and safe workplaces.
And, he added, safety must be top of mind every day of the year.
WorkSafeBC manager of Prevention Field Services, Barry Nakahara said last year in British Columbia 158 people died as a result of their work. Occupational disease remains the single leading cause of workers’ death in the province, he added, resulting in 87 deaths last year. Most of those were from asbestos-related disease from exposure long ago, however, exposure to asbestos from demolitions and renovations remain a concern.
Last year there were 71 traumatic deaths on the worksite and 28 of those were motor vehicle accidents. Six people under the age of 24 years old died on the job last year.
“We know work related illnesses and injuries and deaths are preventable,” he said. “This ceremony adds meaning and urgency to that fact.”