Day of Mourning news release

April 23, 2000

With proclamations apparently being a thing of the past in Kelowna, the North Okanagan Labour Council has come up with a new way to mark the Day of Mourning on April 28.

Instead of having Mayor Walter Gray proclaim April 28 as the Day of Mourning, as he has done in past years, the NOLC will invite the mayor and other dignitaries to a ceremony in the new Ben Lee Park where a tree purchased by the labour council will be dedicated.

The NOLC's Maple tree will commemorate the Day of Mourning, the annual day of remembrance for workers injured and killed in the workplace.

"This year, we'll be doing something that will be a permanent reminder of the Day of Mourning," said NOLC vice-president David Mitchell.

An inscription on the park's donor wall will note that the NOLC's tree commemorates the Day of Mourning.

The ceremony with Mayor Gray, former councillor Ben Lee and others, is to take place at 1:30 p.m., April 28, at the Rutland park.

The Day of Mourning was started by the Canadian Labour Congress in 1984. Since then it has spread across the country and around the world. It is now observed in 70 countries and by labour councils and labour federations across the country.

The aim of the Day of Mourning is to "fight for the living" as well as to remember those injured and killed in the workplace.

This year, the focus of the Day of Mourning is on youth workers, who, statistics show, are more susceptible to workplace accidents than more experienced workers.

"Workers' Compensation Board statistics in B.C. show that young workers, who are usually new to their jobs, have a much greater accident rate than experienced workers," said Mitchell.

It's the newness to a job, more than the youth, that often is the source of the problems.

"One-third of the WCB's claims from 1993-97 were for accidents that occurred during workers' first six months on the job," noted Mitchell.

"Younger workers generally have less experience in recognizing hazardous situations than older workers. It doesn't occur to a young fast-food restaurant worker, for example, that being a cook could be dangerous - until they get burned or cut."

    WCB statistics also show that:
  • Every day in B.C. 46 young workers are injured in workplace incidents.
  • Males under 25 are 70 per cent more likely to have a workplace injury than workers of any age group. That means about one in 11 working young males is injured on the job in B.C.
  • In 1997, injury claims among young workers resulted in 276,249 lost time days in the workplace. Injuries don't just happen in the traditional high-injury industries, such as forestry and manufacturing, but also there's a great many reported in hospitality and retail sectors.

Mitchell said many young workers who are trying to impress their new employers, may be reluctant to ask questions about safety procedures. Some may feel pressured to show they can keep up with more experienced workers at the expense of safety.

"Employers should ensure that young workers are appropriately supervised to prevent injuries and hazardous exposures. Safety training should begin from day one.

"Employers should also recognize that young workers may be reluctant to ask about safety."

Safety training can also begin before young people get into the workplace - in the schools. Mitchell urges schools to check out the WCB's Student WorkSafe program, available for all grades, but which can count for career credits for senior students.

The North Okanagan Labour Council asks local workers to observe a minute's silence at 11 a.m. and local businesses to fly their flags at half mast in memory of the thousands of workers who are killed and injured on the job each year across Canada.

Everybody's invited to the tree dedication ceremony.



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