While we’ve come along way from the working environments of the Industrial Revolution, safety is still an issue in some working environments, which in turn can still cause serious injury or death. As a result, April 28 is has been commemorated as a day of mourning to honour workers who have been killed, injured, or have suffered a serious illness because of occupational exposures or hazards in the workplace.
The day of mourning, first marked in 1983, began by Colin Lamber and Ray Sentes, two labour activists on their way to a union meeting. While on route, they were stopped by a funeral procession for a firefighter killed in the line of duty. While watching the procession, they recalled how members of the United Steelworkers in Elloit Lake, Ontario, held a Workers’s Remembrance Day for uranium miners who died as a result of exposure. After seeking endorsements from various union officials, during its annual convention in 1983, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) passed an official resolution on the matter, with the Canadian Labour Congress following suit at its annual convention in 1984. A national workers’ memorial day is now observed in over 100 countries.
In 1991, the Canadian Parliament passed the Workers Mourning Day Act, officially marking April 28 the Day of Mourning.
Back injuries are the most common type of workplace injury in PEI, according to the Workers Compensation Board of PEI. On its website, the board offers ways to help prevent back injuries at work, including thinking before lifting, and knowing how to properly lift an item; take stretch breaks and change positions frequently; design workstations to keep everything within reach; carry small loads and keep the load close to your body; and in an office setting, adjusting your chair and monitor height to suit your back.
According to the most recent statistics from the Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada (AWCBC), in 2019, there were 925 workplace fatalities recorded in Canada, a small decrease from the previous year. Of that number, 95 per cent of the fatalities were male workers, and 29 of young workers were between the ages of 15 and 24. These statistics also show 271,806 accepted claims for lost time due to a work-related injury or disease, including 33,615 from workers aged 15-24. This was an increase from 264,438 the previous year.
Unfortunately, these statistics are only what’s reported and accepted by compensation boards, meaning the total number is, in all likelihood, higher.
Worker safety should be the biggest concern for a company, but sometimes, unsafe working conditions aren’t reported for fear of what repercussions might ensue. This could be docked pay over minor issues, a decrease in shift work, even termination of employment. Yes, it’s important to report issues like this, but if, for example, a person is the single bread winner for a family, that person is risking something that will impact not only them, but their family as well. It’s not a risk everyone can afford to take.