The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions estimates that about 1.2 million workers a year are killed on the job.
Canada continues to have one of the highest workplace fatality rates of any developed country. Unions, employers and legislators have all said this is unacceptable, but the situation continues despite their efforts.
In 2006, the Association of Worker's Compensation Boards of Canada reported 976 workplace fatalities in Canada compared to 805 workplace fatalities 10 years earlier, an 18 per cent increase. That meant on average, close to four workers were killed every working day of 2006.
Close to 360,000 other Canadians were injured seriously enough to prevent them from reporting to work for at least one day.
More than one million work-related injuries and illnesses are reported each year in Canada. Injuries associated with primary industries such as fishing, farming, mining and forestry are particularly significant. We have very comprehensive labour codes and occupational health and safety legislation, but obviously there is room for improvement.
In 1984 the Canadian Labour Congress initiated the National Day of Mourning to honour and reflect on occupational-related fatalities. Six years later on Dec. 28, 1990, the federal government passed the Workers Mourning Day Act to establish April 28 as the official day observed every year to commemorate workers injured on the job, killed, disabled or who suffer from occupational illnesses.
Workers Mourning Day is also intended to show Canadians' concern for occupational health and safety. The prime purpose of the day is to create safer workplaces so workers can end their working lives in dignity and health, not premature death, disease and disfigurement.
Labour groups have been expressing some concern that in these difficult economic times, workers will not make waves and will allow themselves to be put in risky situations rather than be seen as complainers.
Businesses are also in a difficult situation as costs rise and their bottom line is eroded. Repair and replacement of equipment can be a challenge.
However, if employer and employee work together this can be constructively addressed. Safety is everyone’s responsibility.
We all take risks. Driving down the highway or walking on a slippery surface can lead to injury or death, but many injuries are preventable. Workplace accidents are costly to the worker, the family, the employer, the community and the economy.
Nova Scotian employers pay some of the highest worker compensation rates in the country. Something has to change. We need to work smarter and minimize the hazards so we come home healthy after a good day’s work.