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British Columbia construction industry observes Day of Mourning

Richard Gilbert
British Columbia construction industry observes Day of Mourning
The Olympic cauldron in Vancouver, B.C. was lit in memory of workers who lost their lives, as part of the day of Mourning Ceremony at the Vancouver Convention Centre on April 27. Rose Lachnit, who lost her son in a construction workplace fatality, was a featured speaker. -

The construction industry accounted for the highest number of work related deaths in B.C. last year, as the province’s occupational health & safety authority and labour unions held ceremonies across the province to recognize and mourn workers, who died on the job.

“Today we gather to remember 142 people who tragically lost their lives on the job in B.C.,” said Margaret MacDiarmid, Minister of Labour, Citizens’ Services and Open Government, at a ceremony at Vancouver Convention Centre.

“Along with their families, friends and co-workers, we join together to remember and to commit to doing even more to prevent these tragic workplace deaths from happening in the future.”

According to WorkSafeBC, 142 workers died on the job in 2011. Out of these fatalities, 71 were traumatic deaths and 71 were the result of occupational diseases, mainly exposure to asbestos.

The general construction sector recorded the most fatalities overall with 26, followed by 24 in transportation and 14 in mineral products.

The national Day of Mourning held annually on April 28th was initiated by the Canadian Labour Congress in 1984 and officially recognized by the federal government in 1991.

Because April 28 fell on a weekend this year, the BC Federation of Labour, Business Council of B.C. and WorkSafeBC hosted a Day of Mourning Ceremony at Jack Poole Plaza in Vancouver on Friday, April 27.

At the ceremony, Rose Lachnit of Whitehorse talked about her 20-year old son Nicholas, who died on a Surrey condominium construction project seven years ago.

“My son’s death was stupid and unnecessary. He had no fall protection,” she said.

“It was the second incident like this on the job site in two months. The contractor and sub-contractor were fined, but the people who shared his life paid a much higher price.”

Nicholas fell three storeys from an unguarded, open balcony and landed head first on a pipe sticking out of the ground. He was taken to hospital and died later that evening.

“In the first months, no one I talked to actually understood my pain, but it’s different now,” said Lachnit. To support families in this situation, WorksafeBC started its family Peer Support Program in 2009.

Lachnit is a volunteer, who lends an ear and helps other deal with a workplace fatality. Canada was the first country to recognize the day formally and 25 years later, the Day of Mourning is observed throughout the world in about 80 countries.

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