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Safety first

April 28 is National Day of Mourning for workers who died on the job

The numbers are staggering, although perhaps not entirely surprising.

Tomorrow, April 28, is the National Day of Mourning for people who have lost their lives on the job or due to occupational disease.

Since the last time the day was marked, workplace injuries and illnesses have claimed another 181 lives in B.C.

That is a lot, but in many respects, we have come a long way.

More than half of last year’s deaths (107) were the result of occupational disease and more than half of those (67) were related to exposure to asbestos.

Those asbestos deaths are, of course, the legacy of a different era. There are so many more precautions in place these days and occupational health and safety has come to the forefront in most organizations.

That is not to say, however, that we can’t do more or that we won’t discover something else we didn’t know was hazardous in the future.

And yet, workers still die every day (over 1,000 per year in Canada) and many of those are preventable. The likelihood of ever getting to zero is virtually nil.

Most of us work and for most of us, work is the single thing we do more than any other single thing.

Some jobs are simply dangerous.

And who among us hasn’t ever cut a corner here or there just because of the inconvenience of observing all the protocols?

It is good and right that we have an official day to recognize the loss of life and honour not just those who died, but all the families, friends and co-workers who are affected by these tragedies.

Because it’s not just about the deaths. According to the Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada, in 2021, there were 277,217 accepted claims of lost time due to work-related injury or disease.

We can all help start bringing these numbers down just by keeping two little words at the forefront: “Safety first.”