Day of Mourning a time to remember and to focus on health and safety

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By Judith Reda

Special to Ontario Construction Report

When I joined the League of Champions (LOC) and the Ontario General Contractors Association (OGCA), nearly two years ago, the National Day of Mourning was a day that I admittedly didn’t know much about. After doing quite a lot of reading and speaking with a number of leaders across the industry, I learned how this day holds special significance, especially within the construction industry. Today, I feel honored to have been asked to write about this day of National importance on behalf of the LOC.

To provide some historical context, the first Workers’ Memorial Day was held in Sudbury on April 28, 1984.  Eight years later, in 1991, the Parliament of Canada passed the Workers Mourning Day Act, making April 28 Canada’s official National Day of Mourning. In 2022, this day is observed in more than 100 countries worldwide. The National Day of Mourning is also widely known as the Mourning Day or Workers’ Memorial Day, and is observed in Canada every April 28.  It is a day of incredible importance to the construction industry as we pause in unity, to remember and honour the tens of thousands of workers who have sustained injuries, suffered a workplace related disease or illness, or been killed on the job due to workplace hazards.

The LOC, formed in 2016, is a cross-sectoral organization dedicated to health and safety excellence through collaboration and information sharing on real-world health and safety situations. To explain it very simply, our vision is to inspire leaders to be Health and Safety Champions.

In my opinion, the National Day of Mourning is not only a day to honour those who have lost their lives or suffered an injury due to a workplace incident, but also a day to renew our commitment to health and safety in order to prevent further injuries, illnesses, and loss of lives. As an industry, we want every worker to arrive home safely at the end of the day.  We at the LOC, work tirelessly with our membership to collaboratively share best practices and take action to improve safety culture. This is accomplished through awareness, education, promotion and recognition, leading the way to safer workplaces across Ontario. The LOC supports initiatives throughout the year in support of workplace safety, including Safety Week, and the GFL Infrastructure “Get Home Safe for the Holidays” campaign that takes place throughout the month of December.

Alongside every workplace tragedy, there are family members, friends and co-workers who are directly affected, left behind, and deeply impacted. Every day is a day of mourning for people who have been impacted by a workplace tragedy.  The LOC proudly supports Threads of Life as an important resource for these family members. Threads of Life is a Canadian registered charity dedicated to supporting families after a workplace fatality, life-altering injury or occupational disease. Their network of family members and corporate partners believes traumatic workplace injuries, occupational diseases and deaths are preventable.

Although the Day of Mourning can be a time for private remembrance and reflection, it can also be a time when many choose to share their personal stories in order to honour their loved ones and their own experience, and to help others understand the impact of a death, serious injury or illness caused simply by going to work. We encourage you to connect with this remarkable organization.

As we continue to maneuver through the latest wave of COVID-19, we remind all companies to use this time to review protocols, identify opportunities for training, and raise awareness among your workers about the importance of workplace health and safety. We encourage everyone to participate in the Day of Mourning, either virtually or in-person. Participation may include moments of silence in the workplace at 11:00 a.m., or flags at half-mast for the day. Organizations like WSIB, Threads of Life, and My Safe Work hold online and in-person memorial services. As April 28 approaches, let’s review and renew our efforts to make this important day meaningful for our workers and the victims who must never be forgotten by taking action to keep each other safe at work.

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