Bob Jackson: On April 28th, Mourn for the Dead and Fight for the Living

DoM2013BCFED.jpgThe following is re-posted from Headwinds, a blog written by the PSAC Alliance Executive Committee – the National President, National Executive Vice-President and seven Regional Executive Vice-Presidents. Read more of their thoughts on the issues that affect PSAC members and all Canadians at and watch for more from Bob –  it’s a regular feature here at the regional website.

This coming Sunday, April 28th, is the National Day of Mourning. I’m proud to say that the Canadian Labour Congress and affiliated Unions established the annual day of remembrance right here in Canada in 1985. It has since spread to over 80 countries, where it’s usually called Workers’ Memorial Day.

Along with many others, I’ll be at the Fishermen’s Memorial in Steveston BC. We’ll be remembering and honouring those who lost their lives or were injured because of their work and we’ll be renewing our commitment to prevent further deaths, injuries and diseases by improving health and safety in the workplace.

It’s no secret that workplace health and safety is very important to me. It’s the reason I first became involved in our union.

When I first started my working life as meat inspector in 1979, meat packing plants and slaughterhouses were very dangerous places, full of fast-moving equipment, sharp blades, and sometimes extreme environmental conditions.

Unions, working with employers, have come along way to making these workplaces safer over the past 30 years, but there’s much more work to be done – particularly as we discover the toll these types of jobs take on workers mental health and as the Conservative government moves closer and closer to total industry self-regulation (something that puts all Canadians at risk).

The statistics show that in all our workplaces – large or small, government or private sector – there’s still a lot of work to do.

According to Worksafe BC, 181 workers died on the job or due to occupational disease in 2012 in BC. In Canada, approximately 1,000 workers die each year for the same reasons.

According to the International Labour Organization, more people die because of work than fighting in wars. Every 15 seconds one worker dies, 150 work-related injuries are reported, and 76 non-fatal occupational diseases are reported.*

Every fifteen seconds a worker dies. Let’s think about that: in the time it took for you to read this article five people died because of their job.

On Sunday April 28th, I encourage you to take a moment to remember those who have been killed or injured on the job, or better yet attend a Day of Mourning event in your community.

And on Monday, when you go back to work, take a look around: identify any hazards – physical or mental – that exist in your workplace, think about how to fix them, and then talk your manager or your workplace Health and Safety Representative.

It’s the employer’s duty to ensure we all have a healthy and safe workplace, but it’s our responsibility and our duty to hold them to it. We owe it to those workers I’ll be thinking about on Sunday, and to their families.

* some more stats at the BC Federation of Labour website.