April 28 is the National Day of Mourning. This day of remembrance was officially recognized by the federal government in 1991, eight years after it was launched by the Canadian Labour Congress. Since then, the idea of a Day of Mourning has spread to about 80 countries around the world and has been adopted by the AFL-CIO and the International Confederation of Free Trade.
Why a Day of Mourning Is Needed
Why is it so important to have a day devoted to recognizing those workers killed or injured on the job? Because despite the efforts of government and employers, too many Canadian workers die each year. According to statistics from the Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada, from 1993 to 2008, 14,190 people lost their lives from work-related causes (an average of 887 deaths per year). In 2008 alone, 1,036 workplace deaths were recorded in Canada—that’s more than 2.43 deaths every day. Another 942,478 were injured or became ill.
Progress is being made. For example, fewer workers died in 2008 than in 2007. But clearly more is needed. Just look at the acting auditor general of Alberta’s recent report containing scathing criticisms of the province’s enforcement of its OHS laws, especially its lax approach toward repeat offenders.
And we can’t just point the finger at the government. Employers also need to step up their efforts to protect workers. The recent mining disaster in West Virginia is a good example of what can happen when a company appears to give worker safety short shrift.
Use Day to Reinforce Safety Culture
This day is the perfect opportunity for safety coordinators to reinforce their company’s safety rules. The fact that a day has been set aside to honour those people killed and injured on the job should put the possible consequences of ignoring safety protocols into stark relief for workers.
For posters and ideas on what to do to mark the Day of Mourning in your company and to see what your jurisdiction is doing on this day, click on your province or territory below: