Labour leaders urged continued vigilance and accountability on workplace safety as about 30 people gathered Friday in Penticton for the annual Day of Mourning ceremony.
The aim of the day is to remember workers who died on the job or became sick as a result of their toil. This year’s ceremony came just days after two workers died in an explosion at a sawmill in Prince George. Two other sawmill workers died under similar circumstances in January in Burns Lake.
“It’s a sad commentary that it took those four lives” for the government to finally order other mills to reduce the sawdust build-ups believed responsible for the two blasts, said Terry Green, treasurer of the South Okanagan Boundary Labour Council.
He called on the province and WorksafeBC to be more proactive and make sure employers follow the rules, and not allow anyone or any agency to meddle with that process.
Health and safety should “become the first priority in any person’s job description or role,” said Green. “The cost of ensuring this has to be less than the cost of even one life lost while on the job.”
Acting Mayor Judy Sentes began the event by officially proclaiming today a Day of Mourning in Penticton. Communities throughout the province did the same.
Job-related accidents and illnesses killed 142 people in B.C. last year, according to WorksafeBC. Fifty-one of those deaths were related to asbestos exposure, 29 were involved in motor vehicle accidents and 14 died from falls. The agency also accepted 103,798 injury claims in 2011.
“We cannot forget that each of these numbers represents a real person,” WorkSafeBC president and CEO Dave Anderson said in a press release.
“These were people with hopes and dreams who wanted to do a good job and come home safely from work at the end of the day. Their loss is felt by their families, their workplaces, and their communities,” he said. “We also cannot forget that many of these tragedies were preventable.”