April 28 is the Day of Mourning for Workers Injured and Killed on the Job. Unions have struggled for decades to make workplaces safer but much more needs to be done. As the Day of Mourning for Workers Injured and Killed on the Job approaches the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour reminds all Nova Scotians that they must continue to mourn for the dead and fight for the living.
In 2014 we mourned 19 Nova Scotians who died at or because of work and I am sad to say that in 2015 we lost 27 workers. The statistics on workplace deaths and injury are shocking. Each year, over 1000 Canadians died because of their work. However, the number is likely much higher because official figures reflect only those who received workers’ compensation benefits.
Unions matter in the fight for safe workplaces
We can’t bring back those who have died, but we can commit to make workplaces safer. That’s why this April 28, Canadian unions are calling for a national ban on asbestos, a known killer that causes disease, suffering and death—all of it preventable.
More than 2,000 people die every year in Canada from diseases caused by exposure to asbestos, like mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis. It is the number one cause of occupational death in Canada. Deaths from mesothelioma increased by 60 percent between 2000 and 2012.
Despite this, imports of items that contain asbestos, like brake pads and cement pipes, are on the rise. The lack of a formal registry of buildings known to contain asbestos adds to the risk of needless exposure. But plans for new spending on infrastructure as all levels of government make it all the more urgent to put a ban in place now to guarantee those projects – roads, transit stations, and other public places – are asbestos free.
There are safe alternatives to asbestos. Asbestos-free brake pads are manufactured in Guelph, Ontario. Asbestos-free ceiling tiles are produced in Langley, British Columbia. This means that substituting for safe alternatives will create Canadian jobs and support Canadian industries.
Unions have already made a difference over the past year by helping make the places where all Canadians (not just union members) work safer. They have fostered workplace protections for victims of domestic violence, with changes to provincial laws moving forward in Alberta, Manitoba, and Ontario.
This year, Canada can take a giant step forward with a comprehensive ban on asbestos to make all of our workplaces, homes and public spaces safer and healthier.
Mourn the dead and fight for the living!
April 28th reminds us to mourn those who have died while on the job. Far too many families that have lost a loved one due to a workplace fatality or are dealing with a serious injury. The Federation pledges to continue the fight until every workplace is a safe workplace.