April 28 is the Day of Mourning for Workers Killed or Injured on the Job.
The canary is a potent symbol and a powerful reminder.
This tiny, fragile bird was the only thing that stood between miners and a suffocating death. The world over, workers are little more than canaries in their own workplaces.
No worker should ever be killed or injured because of work, yet it happens on a regular basis. The pandemic has put the spotlight on the many dangers that workers face every day -- but it hasn't led to employers or governments bringing an end to dangerous practices. In Canada and the US, a huge percentage of workers don't even have access to paid sick leave. And the pandemic has only extended the long reach of precarious work.
When workers do not have guaranteed work, or don't get enough hours, or earn too little to survive, they are much less likely to speak up about unsafe working conditions. Employers know this. In the precarious workplace, all too often there is scant attention given to health and safety standards.
Privatization of services also causes workplace injuries and death, as companies — with no public oversight — cut corners to squeeze more profit out of services that should not be generating profit.
Understaffing also causes injuries and deaths, as workers are required to do work previously assigned to two or more workers.
Working alone has become commonplace in many fields. Working alone means there is no one to administer CPR, to help if an accident happens, to call for help if there is a violent confrontation.
Injury and death on the job are not merely "accidents" or "tragedies" that just happen. All too often, they are the result of precarious work, austerity measures, and privatization. All too often, they are preventable deaths.
On April 28, the Day of Mourning for Workers Killed or Injured on the Job, we should pause to mourn our losses and renew our commitment to ending such tragedies.
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In 2020, 173 workers in B.C. lost their lives to workplace injury or disease. Join us in honouring their memory on April 28.
BC Federation of Labour Day of Mourning website