Story submitted by Grant Currie, President of Local 417 and worker member of the Kingston Joint Health and Safety Committee, and Trish McPherson, SLC Occupational Health and Safety Officer
Today is the National Day of Mourning in Canada. Flags at St. Lawrence College's campuses are lowered to half-mast to remember and honour those who have died, been injured, or suffered illness in the workplace.
On April 28th of each year we pause, reflect, and remember those workers who left home to go to their job and never returned home.
Statistics from the Association of Workers' Compensation Boards of Canada (AWCBC) tell us that in 2019, 925 workplace fatalities were recorded in Canada. Among these deaths were 29 young workers aged 15-24. With each worker tragedy there are loved ones, family members, friends, and co-workers who are directly affected, left behind, and deeply impacted – their lives also forever changed.
Below is a story shared by Grant Currie, President of Local 417 and worker member of the Kingston Joint Health and Safety Committee:
"On November 8 of 1989, I was working in a sawmill as a younger worker. One of my friends was an older worker, Paul Jackpine. I took over his job as a lumber grader. He was 60 years old and moved to a job that paid more, and that he hoped would bump up his last pensionable years of service. Tragically, in a workplace that had a Joint Health and Safety Committee, a union representing workers and advocating for safe workplaces, he lost his life on this job.
The province held a coroner’s inquest and recommendations were made. Those recommendations improved the Health and Safety system but did nothing to bring him back to his family to enjoy their life with him in his retirement."
Below is a story shared by Trish McPherson, SLC Occupational Health and Safety Officer:
"Growing up in the small town of Port Colborne, Ontario most folks had heard of the Grain Elevator explosion that occurred on the morning of August 9, 1919. We learned the blast was so intense it caused the grain elevator’s concrete roof to lift and blow apart the upper three floors. We were told that flames shot hundreds of feet into the air while charred grain and wreckage were blown a mile and a half around the site, damaging nearby structures. We learned that among the multiple injuries, the explosion killed 10, one of the fatalities being my Great Grandfather, Alfred Leslie, who was 33 at the time. Alfred had two small boys and a pregnant wife at home the day he lost his life at work.
The Port Colborne explosion was just one of five that occurred in North America between May 20 to September 13, 1919, due to a lack of regulations concerning grain shipment. The series of dust explosions resulted in 70 deaths and many more injuries.
The tragedy didn’t impact me directly, but I still take time to pause, reflect and remember my Great Grandfather, Alfred Leslie on April 28 each year."
The National Day of Mourning is not only a day to remember and honour those lives lost or injured due to a workplace tragedy, but also a day to collectively renew our commitment to improve health and safety in the workplace and prevent further injuries, illnesses and deaths. The Joint Health and Safety Committees across the three campuses are there to support the College’s health and safety responsibilities and commitment to a safe workplace.
On April 28, let’s all take a moment to reflect on those that lost their life simply doing their jobs and remember to work safely for everyone’s sake.
Individuals can also spread awareness about the National Day of Mourning in their organizations and communities:
- Share Day of Mourning social media messages and tag each post with #dayofmourning.
- Listen to podcasts featuring interviews with workers and their families, to hear how they were personally affected by workplace tragedies.
- Download the shareable wreath and share it on social media – you can use it as your profile pic too.
- Use the Day of Mourning background for video calls. Simply download the background image and upload to your video calling application.