In 2008, 1,036 Canadians died in the workplace or from a workplace-related illness.
Yesterday, a long line of Canadian flags — one for each of the people whose lives were taken — marked the path to a National Day of Mourning ceremony at Vincent Massey Park to remember all those who were killed or injured.
“The best way to pay tribute to those we remember today is to continue to strive for safer and healthier workplaces,” said Labour Minister Lisa Raitt.
Employers, unions and governments all have a responsibility to continue to raise awareness of occupational hazards, she said.
The construction trade accounts for only eight per cent of Canada’s workforce, but has 30 per cent of the deaths and injuries, said Robert Blakely with Canadian Building Trades.
There are many reasons for injuries and deaths, including the pressure to take risks, lack of training and inexperience, which affects young people the most, Blakely said.
“We know that young people may be more likely to underestimate risks,” said Raitt. “And when they first enter the workplace, students may be much less likely to challenge a supervisor when a workplace situation seems hazardous.
“We have to make sure collectively that when our sons and daughters first enter the labour market, they are provided with safe work environments and they are aware of their right to speak if they feel the workplace presents a danger.”
Just under a million people had a workplace accident in Canada last year, said Blakely.
Canada has some of the world’s best health and safety laws, said NDP Leader Jack Layton, “but as long as we fail to ensure that they can be properly enforced, we’re going to see these tragedies continuing.”