April 28th is a very important day. It is the day we commemorate workers whose lives have been lost or injured in the workplace. This National Day of Mourning, held annually on April 28, was officially recognized by the federal government in 1991, though its beginning was launched eight years earlier by the Canadian Labour Congress.
The Day of Mourning is now recognized in approximately 80 countries around the world. As is the custom on all National Days of Mourning, the Canadian Flag on Parliament Hill will fly at half-mast. Throughout the country, workers will light candles, don ribbons and black armbands and observe moments of silence.
Please participate and strive throughout the year to prevent workplace injuries, illnesses and deaths.
* The most recent statistics from the Association of Workers' Compensation Boards of Canada (AWCBC) tell us that in 2019, 925 workplace fatalities were recorded in Canada. 882 were male workers, and 43 were female workers. Among these deaths were 29 young workers aged 15-24.
Add to these fatalities the 271,806 accepted claims (an increase from 264,438 the previous year) for lost time due to a work-related injury or disease, including 33,615 from workers aged 15-24, and the fact that these statistics only include what is reported and accepted by the compensation boards, there is no doubt that the total number of workers impacted is even greater.
And it’s not just these numbers on which we need to reflect. With each worker tragedy there are loved ones, family members, friends and co-workers who are directly affected, left behind, and deeply impacted – their lives also forever changed.
Every day workers leave their home and their family expecting to see them later that same day. They do not leave home expecting to die.
The international symbol for Health and Safety is “THE CANARY IN THE CAGE” and people have asked what that represents. In the 19th century, miners would take a caged canary into the mines with them. Canaries are more sensitive to airborne hazards and the absence of oxygen than people. If the canaries were overcome by hazards, it was a sign to evacuate the mine fast.
Unfortunately, as the numbers indicate, humans have now become the canaries in the workplace and we must recognize that when every single day in Canada almost three people die at work. Something must be done. Remember the slogan:
“Mourn The Dead, Fight For The Living”
It is as much a day to remember the dead as it is a call to protect the living.
It’s your life. Don't leave work without it.
Chair, Health and Safety Committee
* Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety https://www.ccohs.ca/events/mourning/