National Day of Mourning - April 28

April 27, 2018

Ndom (1)

April 28 is the annual Day of Mourning for workers who are killed or injured in the workplace. Established by the Canadian Labour Congress, this day gives us an opportunity to remember the victims of workplace hazards and redouble our efforts to maintain safe workplaces.

Before the advent of health and safety regulations, vulnerable people – especially new immigrants – were often exploited and put in dangerous work situations. Without the proper equipment and protective gear, many were maimed or killed while trying to make a meagre living.

In 1960, five Italian immigrants died in a fire while working underground on a watermain at Hogg’s Hollow, under the Don River in Toronto. The senseless deaths of Pasqualle Allegrezza, Giovanni Correglio, Giovanni Fusillo, Alessandro Mantella, and Guido Mantella were an important milestone in health and safety history. The resulting pressure from the Italian community, labour unions and other concerned citizens spurred the province of Ontario to enact the Industrial Safety Act.

According to the Canadian Labour Congress, “the act was the foundation of the Canada Labour (Safety) Code that passed later that decade. It clearly set out laws and regulations for the safety of workers in Canada.” 

Health and safety

Today, joint occupational health and safety committees are an important tool in minimizing and addressing workplace hazards. While occupational health and safety is certainly a primary concern for blue-collar workers, white-collar workers aren’t immune to injuries in the workplace. In fact, many CAPE Locals have volunteers dedicated to promoting and safeguarding your health and safety in the workplace. 

Local health and safety volunteers are always looking to prevent injuries and illness in the workplace. They work with the employer to address reported hazards and conduct regular site inspections to spot others.

Typical hazards encountered include slippery floors, ice and bunched up carpeting – all of which can cause trips and falls. Office buildings workers should be particularly vigilant about their office’s air quality. Air intakes can sometimes pump vehicle exhaust from the outside. Photocopiers can emit toxic fumes. Air fresheners, perfumes and cleaning products can contain toxic chemicals and affect those with chemical sensitivities.

Health and safety committees are especially successful when volunteers demonstrate earnest desire to get involved. If you’d like to contribute to your workplace’s health and safety, please contact your local president to see what volunteer opportunities might be available to you. As a first step, you might consider attending your departmental occupational health and safety committee as an observer. 

Did you know?

In Canada today, newly arrived immigrants continue to be at an elevated risk for injuries on the job. The same applies to young workers, especially if they are new to the job. Since many of our members are also parents, we would encourage you to have discussions with your children about their health and safety rights in the workplace as they enter the workforce. As students start looking for summer jobs, the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety is asking parents to play an active role; the advice you impart on your child could potentially save their life. If you’d like to have this conversation with your child, we encourage you to consult this section of the CCOHS’s website.