April 27, 2012
Day of Mourning a call to workplace safety action
The nationwide annual Day of Mourning is not just about attending a ceremony this Saturday but also about taking action and addressing workplace safety, says Ontario’s Chief Prevention Officer.
“[Don’t] just be a part of it by showing up but also be a part of acknowledging and addressing that this is something that we should be doing 24-7,” said George Gritziotis, Ontario’s first Chief Prevention Officer and Associate Deputy Minister of Labour.
Each year, April 28 is marked as the National Day of Mourning, which honours workers whose lives have been lost, or affected by workplace injuries, disabilities or disease.
The National Day of Mourning was officially recognized by the federal government in 1991, eight years after the day of remembrance was launched by the Canadian Labour Congress. The Day of Mourning has since spread to about 80 countries around the world and has been adopted by the AFL-CIO and the International Confederation of Free Trade.
“It creates an awareness. This is something that we need to ensure we build into our thinking on a day to day basis, and in the operation of an organization, to ensure that workers are safe and they go home secure and healthy at the end of the day,” said Gritziotis.
In 2010, nationwide, 1,014 people lost their lives in workplace deaths, representing nearly three deaths each day. That was an increase from 939 the previous year, according to the Association of Workers’ Compensations Boards of Canada.
Besides looking at the issue from an emotional perspective, Gritziotis said safety makes good business sense.
“Organizations that address this with good human resources safety practices make that organization an employer of choice. They could be a more competitive organization, much more productive.”
This year the Infrastructure Health & Safety Association (IHSA) will mark the Day of Mourning with a four-page pullout to appear as a special section in several newspapers across Ontario. Paul Casey, IHSA vice president for strategic and program development, said it is a call to action.
“Traditionally what happens is that annually people hear about the Day of Mourning and that comes and goes. What we want to happen is we want people to pick up the phone or go to our website and identify what gaps they have [in safety],” he said.
The number of people employed in construction rises as the economy slowly improves and Casey pointed out that newcomers to the workplace are at a higher risk for incidents.
“It’s important to make sure that the message about their rights and responsibilities continually communicated to them but also they need to know that’s there’s solutions,” he said.
Safety needs to be part of daily life, he said, not just on the Day of Mourning.
“What happens, especially in some of the construction trades, is that people accept it and it shouldn’t be accepted. People should be upset that somebody gets hurt and they should be more aware that there are solutions.”
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