Day of Mourning Ceremony Hears Calls for Committment to Safety
By 250 News
Injured worker Mark Johnson shares his story- photo 250News
Prince George, B.C.- “Despite all of our strong efforts, not enough is being done to stop preventable accidents” with those words, Don Iwaskow, Vice President of the North Central Labour Council, opened the Day of Mourning ceremony at the Workers Memorial in Prince George.
In 2013, there were 128 work related deaths in B.C., six of those workers were under the age of 25.
Mark Johnson was a young worker who thought the best way to move up the ranks at work was to “do what’s best for the mill”. He was 21, working cleanup at a sawmill, and tried to free some chips that were clogging a conveyor belt. “I didn’t turn off the machine because that would mean production at the mill would back up, so I stuck my hand in there, and the machine grabbed my glove”. The next thing he knew, his arm had been broken and was into the rollers, meantime the edge of the conveyor belt ripped through his clothing and through the skin on his back “I yelled for help but no one could hear me, and then I yelled ‘Please God, make it stop!” Although no one claimed responsibioity for stopping the machinery, the machine did stop, and it was only then that his co workers knew he was injured.
Mark underwent 5 surgeries in 15 days but he lost the use of his left arm.
He blames his situation on youth, being too proud to admit he didn’t know the safety rules, and thinking his job was to do what was best for the mill. Now, he makes it his job to tell his story, especially to young workers who may have the same attitude he did.
The noon hour ceremony today heard calls for action in the wake of the Lakeland Mill and Babine Forest Products explosions which claimed lives and injured many workers. Criminal charges were not laid in either of those fatal incidents. Iwaskow pointed to a lack of action “Despite the passing of the Westray Act in 2004 which allows criminal charges against corporations for negligence causing death, there have been few prosecutions. That has to change in order to stop workplace deaths.”
He said in the case of Babine, workers lost their lives, and the company was ordered to pay a fine, “That is totally unacceptable, it’s time Governments lived up their responsibilities and we intend to force them to do so.”
(at right, wreath from North Central Labour Council and WorkSafeBC)
WorkSafe BC Vice President of Prevention Services, Al Johnson talked about the sad statistic from 2013 “128 workers died. 128 got up in the morning, put on their clothes, kissed their loved ones good bye, went to work and never came home again.” He talked about the Babine and Lakeland explosions “Today is not an easy day, when they reflect on what can happen when things go wrong on the job. We know that when unsafe working conditions are ignored, or health and safety practices are minimized, people can get hurt, people can get sick and they can die, that’s why it’s important to use this occasion not only to remember those workers who have lost their lives, but to use this day as an opportunity to talk to one another and commit to safer workplaces.”
Below, WorkSafeBC stats on 2013 deaths, information courtesy WorkSafeBC:
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