April 28th – National Day of Mourning
As I was thinking about writing this post, news reports and tweets were coming in about two industrial accidents. One in Edmonton, where a man still remains in critical condition in hospital after being buried under a dumptruck full of gravel and sand, and another in Toronto, where a construction worker died after falling from the third floor of tower under construction in the downtown area. Sadly, this last accident was the third industrial death in Ontario in a little over a month.
April 28th marks The National Day of Mourning in Canada, a day of remembrance that was officially recognized by the Canadian government in 1991 — a time to acknowledge the people who lost their lives or were injured on the job. Since 1991, The Day of Mourning has spread to about 80 countries and has been adopted by the AFL-CIO (American Federation of Labour and Congress of Industrial Organizations) and the International Confederation of Free Trade.
In 2013, in Alberta alone, there were 169 men and women who lost their lives while at work and countless more that were seriously injured. In that same year, more than 900 workers lost their lives across Canada, a number which represents almost 2.5 lives per day. From 1993 to 2013, there were almost 1,900 worker fatalities — and that’s a fraction of the number of workers that sustained a serious illness or injury during that same year period. As a result, virtually everyone either has been directly affected or knows someone who has suffered a serious or tragic workplace accident.
The impact that these accidents have on workers and their families can be devastating, as they struggle to put their lives back together either after the loss of a loved one, or figure out how to recover and cope with life-altering injury or illness. Despite the assistance and support provided by the Workers’ Compensation Board, the Alberta Health Care system and other government programs, the fallout and lingering effects continue long after the crises are over and out of the headlines.
Although we will never be able to prevent or avoid 100% of fatal or serious injury accidents, it is only through continued education, awareness and attention that we can minimize the number and the effects. On April 28th, the Canadian Flag will fly at half-staff, workers around the country will light candles, wear black armbands and ribbons and observe a moment of silence. How will you remember?