May 30th, 2024

Day of Mourning honours victims of workplace tragedies


By Alejandra Pulido-Guzman - Lethbridge Herald on April 30, 2024.

Herald photo by Alejandra Pulido-Guzman Dignitaries stand next to the workers memorial after a ceremony on Monday at Mountain View Cemetery as part of the annual Day of Mourning honouring victims of workplace tragedies.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDapulido@lethbridgeherald.com

City workers, dignitaries and members of the community gathered Monday to remember victims of workplace tragedies during the annual Day of Mourning at Mountain View Cemetery.

Following passage of an act in Parliament in 1991, Canada recognized its first National Day of Mourning for persons killed or injured in the workplace.

It’s a day in which flags fly at half-mast and ceremonies across the country are held to recognize the lives needlessly lost and the tremendous suffering of those left in the wake of workplace tragedy, with more than 100 other countries also adopting the observance known as Workers Memorial Day.

The most recent statistics from the Association of Workers Compensation Boards of Canada show that in 2022 there were 993 workplace fatalities recorded in Canada. Among these deaths were 33 young people aged 15 to 24 years old.

Last year in Alberta 165 workers lost their lives as a result of their work.

Jeremy Charlesworth, member engagement coordinator for CUPE 70, spoke during the ceremony Monday and said 165 lives lost to workplace incidents last year were 165 too many, and advocacy for safe workplaces needs to continue.

“As we remember the fallen, we must also recognize the critical role that unions play in preventing such tragedies,” said Charlesworth.

 He said unions and workers have long fought for four basic occupational health and safety rights, the right to know about the dangers of their jobs and how they are protected, the right to participate in making their workplaces safer, the right to refuse dangerous work and the right to be free from reprisal for using their health and safety rights.

 “These are important rights for all workers to know, but not necessarily easy for us to use. Research shows that the workers do not use their rights due to fear of employer retaliation when faced with unsafe conditions,” said Charlesworth.

“We must often make a horrible decision; do we raise a health and safety concern and risk losing our jobs and our ability to support our families or continue our work and maybe risk losing our lives.”

Additionally, said Charlesworth, there are newer occupational health and safety laws in Alberta that have been designed to weaken workers rights and protections in favour of making things less prescriptive and less onerous for employers.

“Employers already had a lot of power and individual workers not so much. We must continue the fight to protect workers, all workers need to know the four health and safety rights but I also urge you to use them, make sure you fill out job hazard assessments and review safe work practices,” said Charlesworth.

He reminded those in attendance that as workers it is they need to use every tool available to them to ensure their health and safety.

“Last year 165 people lost their lives due to work, that’s 165 too many. These were not just numbers, they were individuals with dreams, aspirations and loved ones who now carry the burden of grief,” said Charlesworth.

Tim Scott, Health and Safety coordinator for the City of Lethbridge, said after the ceremony they are constantly trying to improve their health and safety program at the City.

“There’s always lots to do in terms of what’s practical to help the workers and make sure they’re getting the right training and everything, also making sure that we’re following the latest legislative changes and making sure that everybody is aware of the changes,” said Scott.

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