Last year, 122 workers were killed on the job in British Columbia.
Two of those workers were from the Okanagan, and they were all recognized Thursday afternoon at Ben Lee Park in Kelowna in Canada’s national Day of Mourning.
“This is a day of great sadness and significance for so many,” said Mark Stokes, Kelowna manager of client services for WorkSafe B.C. “We’re all coming together to remember those who died, and to share in the loss of their families, their workplaces and their communities.”
Of all of the causes of the 122 workplace deaths, one stood out above the rest.
“Occupational disease remains the leading cause of work related fatality,” Stokes said. “72 of the 122 work related deaths last year resulted from occupational disease. 48 of those were due to asbestus related diseases. Because of how long it takes for asbestus exposure to manifest into disease, we’re seeing the real and horrific effects of yesterday’s exposures on our workers and retirees today. Unfortunately, this means the number of deaths from occupational disease could remain high for some yeast to come.”
Stokes highlighted it is the responsibility of the employer to provide a safe and healthy work place, and workers have the right to demand just that.
“These numbers represent men and women who were fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, sons, daughters, friends, coworkers and neighbours,” he said. “While work related deaths have been on the decline in the province and we continue to see a provincial injury rate that is at an historic low, we still have a lot of work to do.”
Kelowna Councillor Mohini Singh also spoke at the ceremony, reading a proclamation from the city declaring April 28th as the Day of Mourning in Kelowna. The ceremony also featured a speech from Mark Johnson, who shared his story about a how a workplace injury at a sawmill at the age of 21 cost him the use of his left arm nine years ago.
While the overall message of the ceremony as to remember those who lost their lives while working, Stokes also said it was a good time to recommit to preventing future injuries and fatalities.