For the Day of Mourning 2021, we partnered with Owen Goodwin to help spread awareness about this important day. This day remembers those we have lost in work place accidents. These accidents are often preventable. This day helps to remind us to keep our workers safe.
The below passage is what Owen shared with us to mark this day.
April 28th is dedicated across Canada as the National Day of Mourning. On this day, Canadians in every walk of life get together to remember workers who have died or been seriously injured at or because of their work and to rededicate ourselves to making workplaces safer so that everyone comes home at the end of their workday.
On average 1000 Canadians lose their lives every year at work and thousands more are left with life altering injuries. Of those life altering injuries, thousands are children under the age of 18.
During this last year, we have seen our frontline workers devastated by the Covid-19 pandemic. Not just through physical illness but also through mental illness. The mental stress of being in harms way every day, not having access to adequate PPE, worrying if they are bringing this illness back home to their loved ones, and for the healthcare workers especially, dealing with death sometimes on a daily basis. The Day of Mourning is more important than ever.
I want to tell you a story about a guy in Vancouver.
He worked in a steel shop in the Vancouver area. He was 32 years old and he and his wife had just had their first baby who was four months old at the time. On June 13, 2013 he went to work and was lifting plates of steel up with a crane when the plate hooks slipped out with about 6000 lbs of pressure on them. One of the hooks hit him right in the middle of his safety glasses throwing him 20ft in the air. He stood up not knowing who or where he was and felt a lot of pain in his face.
He was rushed to the first aid room and then to the hospital by ambulance. At the hospital he was told he had four facial fractures and would need both internal and external stitches to close the hole in his face. Over the following months, he would need the help of his wife to walk to the bathroom or do anything at all. He attended a head injury rehabilitation clinic where he learned to walk and talk again. The specialist there equated the force of the impact to that of someone swinging a sledgehammer like a baseball bat at his face.
After months of rehabilitation, he was able to get back to some kind of normal but the worst was yet to come. When he visited his workplace, he could not even look at the cranes without turning and walking the other way. He was angry all the time. He hated crowded places. He had permanent hearing loss and was now wearing two hearing aids at the age of 32. The list of life altering changes goes on and on. He thought about ending his own life because of the daily physical and mental pain he was in. It came down to almost getting divorced before he admitted he needed more help, which led to years of counselling.
You may be wondering, “how is he doing now?” Well, I’m happy to say that he speaks about workplace injuries and mental health recovery after injuries all the time. His son now knows more about health and safety than most adults. His son attends the Day of Mourning ceremony every year to lay a rose on the memorial so that we can all learn about his father’s accident and to remember those we have lost. Their family has also welcomed a second child into the world and he will also grow up understanding these same things. The father will have lifelong injuries both on the outside and on the inside but he will never stop fighting for worker safety.
He is me.
The reason I tell this story even though I hate talking about it is because we all need to look at our work and how we can make it safer. This accident was caused by an accepted practice that was never a safe practice. The impacts of workplace injuries and fatalities affect far more people than just that person. Families take a massive toll, as well as friendships.
Every year on April 28th, we rededicate ourselves to safety and urge employers to do the same. And believe me when I say that when they don’t put safety first then they should be held accountable in every sense of the word. Worker deaths and injuries are not a “ cost of doing business”.
I urge everyone to attend a virtual ceremony (https://canadianlabour.ca/events/day-of-mourning-ceremonies-2021/) or in person when we get back to it to remember these workers and their families and to keep honouring them by fighting for better safety.
Stay safe, stay strong and stay vigilant.
Love and respect,