Under the continued presence of COVID-19, people gathered in Nanaimo to remember workers who have died at the workplace.
Nanaimo Duncan and District Labour Council held a Day of Mourning memorial for fallen workers at Bastion Park Square, today, April 28, where it acknowledged an increase in workplace-related fatalities. Jenn MacPherson, council president, said 161 workers died in B.C. in 2021. There were 151 deaths in 2020.
“Sixty-two of those people were lost through traumatic deaths, 12 of which were motor vehicle accidents and 99 of those workers to disease,” said MacPherson at the ceremony. “Thirteen were COVID-related exposures and deaths in the workplace and 52 to asbestos exposures – that’s 161 too many. In Canada, over 1,000 workers die as a result of their work every year … hundreds of thousands of workers are injured or fall ill because of workplace hazards.”
MacPherson said the council is calling on the federal government to do more to protect workers, including ratification of International Labour Organization Convention 190, that insures workers have the right to work free of violence and harassment.
Dave Gaskill, WorkSafeBC occupational health safety officer, said the Island region had four work-related deaths in 2021. Risks are present regardless of industry, he said.
“We are challenged today with issues like bullying, harassment, vulnerability and discrimination and also mental health,” said Gaskill. “All of these can take a toll on the health and safety of all workers in British Columbia.”
MacPherson knows of workplace risks, suffering a substantial finger injury this year.
“I went to work, just a normal day … I was in the process of cleaning up a spill and we had to move a piece of heavy equipment and as we were moving [it] back, my hand got pinned between the equipment and the counter and I watched the metal bracket slide down into my knuckle, down to the bone, severing the tendon that helps me straighten and bend my finger,” said MacPherson.
Being the on-site high-level industrial first aid attendant, MacPherson stayed calm and bandaged herself and was at a hospital within two hours, she said.
“When I got to the hospital and they took a look at how professionally bandaged my finger was, I said, ‘Thanks, I did it myself,’ and they were very, very shocked and dismayed that that is how that happened,” said MacPherson. “Because of my workplace injury and reporting it to health and safety committees and working with my union, … now we have two first aid attendants on every shift, so my experience does not happen to anyone else.”