April 28 is the National Day of Mourning, a day set aside to remember and honour those who were killed, injured or suffer from work-related illnesses.
This year’s theme, “One is Too Many: No one should die on the job” was highlighted during a ceremony organized by the North Bay and District Labour Council outside of city hall.
President of the North Bay and District Labour Council, Henri Giroux, told those gathered that, “We need to do better to ensure that when a worker goes to work, they come home at the end of the day to their family and their loved ones, whole.”
Guest speaker Martha Hradowy, an executive officer with the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation, brought a message on behalf of the Canadian Labour Congress.
“We need to continue to ensure that our elected officials put health and safety at the forefront, and not consider it red tape and a source to try and find efficiencies as part of balancing the budget on the backs of Ontario workers,” said Hradowy.
”The government has slashed $11 million in funding to the Ministry of Labour budget. Essentially what that means is that Ministry of Labour inspectors will not be able to make proactive site inspections to potentially identify and fix violations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.”
Hradowy says labour is concerned over changes to health and safety training.
“They have removed the requirement for workers to receive in-class, face to face instruction, three-day health, and safety training. They have now moved that to online training which will require workers to participate for one day only. We think that with the removal of that requirement, potentially it will put more workers at risk across the province and to us it is unacceptable.”
The most recent statistics show that in 2017, there were 951 workplace fatalities in Canada, an increase of 46 from the previous year.
In Ontario, the number of on the job fatalities during that same period was 72 based on WSIB numbers.
Included in the national statistics for workplace fatalities, 23 were young people between the ages of 15 and 24.
Something to consider as students get set to embark on summer employment opportunities.
“In the Canadian Labour Congress and OSSTF, we know that students go off to work and may not be comfortable or know how to ask their employers the right questions around safe workplace practices,” said Hradowy.
“Many times this is their first job. They’re not aware that there may be protections in place for them. So, I think that we have to do a better job to make sure that our younger workers are going to work with the knowledge around workplace safety, to make sure that they go home to their parents at the end of the day.”
Ontario’s Minister of Labour, Laurie Scott, issued a news release regarding the National Day of Mourning, in which she stated that one of her top priorities is “to understand and ensure that Ontarians have the proper protections, such as legislation and regulations, to prevent and eliminate workplace incidents. I am committed to ensuring that Ontario’s workplaces remain among the safest in the world.”
Scott went on to say, “We need everyone-the government, our health and safety partners, and workers and employers-working together to help promote health and safety to prevent further workplace tragedies.”
The minister concluded with a commitment to developing Ontario’s next occupational Health and Safety Strategy.
Scott explained that the strategy will focus on the message that everyone has a role to play in a safe workplace and the prevention of future deaths and injuries.