A couple hundred people attended a somber ceremony outside Vernon City Hall today.
The City was observing the National Day of Mourning to honour workers who have been killed, injured or suffered illnesses while working.
Paul Davis from Worksafe BC told the crowd, 144 people died on the job in BC last year.
“Of those 144 workers, occupational disease remains the single leading cause of work related accidents and fatalities in BC. 85 of those 144 workers deaths resulted from occupational disease,” says Davis.
Photo: City of Vernon employee Glenn Gaythorpe from CUPE Local 626 speaks at event outside City Hall (Pete McIntyre photo)
Davis says many of those deaths were from asbestos exposure decades ago.
“Although asbestos has been banned 25 years ago, it remains a challenge for us, and we all know that it kills.”
Fifty-nine of last year’s deaths resulted from traumatic injury including 22 from motor-vehicle incidents.
Glenn Gaythorpe, a pipe fitter who works for the City, and a member of CUPE local 626, says the day means more to him after a recent incident.
“A short while ago, I had a near miss incident at work. It wasn’t anything that caused injury or loss of work, but I can tell you, it did change me.”
Gaythorpe says the event is about mourning those that have passed away, and honouring the lives of families left behind.
“For me, this day is a chance to stop for a moment and realize I might be taking certain things for granted, and to pause with a gracious heart, and say thank you for health, and for life,” added Gaythorpe, who’s close friend lost her father to asbestos exposure.
Interim Vernon Fire Chief David Lind says the event should serve a preventative purpose for workers.
“I ask that each of us take time to consider our work environment. Consider what we can do to guard ourselves and our co workers from the hazards that exist in so many of our work places,” said Lind.
In 2016, WorkSafe says the highest numbers of work-related deaths by work sector were in construction (30), manufacturing (25), transportation and related industries (25), public administration (19) and primary-resources sectors (14).
Work-related deaths from occupational disease increased from 41 percent of all deaths in 2006 to 57 percent in 2016.