KELOWNA -- Too many workers are paying for B.C.'s booming economy with their lives, said Brad Dunlop, president of the North Okanagan Labour Council.
With the 24th National Day of Mourning to remember people who were killed or injured in the workplace coming up on April 28, Dunlop noted workplace injuries and deaths are rising provincially and nationally.
"Who would have thought when the Day of Mourning began in 1984 that workplaces would be more dangerous in 2007? It's time for drastic action to ensure better safety measures are put in place and enforced."
Governments deserve a large share of the blame for making workplaces more hazardous places to be, said Dunlop.
"They've cut safety regulations and, especially, enforcement by calling it unnecessary red tape. We need more of this kind of red tape, not less, to save lives of working people."
In 1984, when the Canadian Labour Congress initiated April 28 as the National Day of Mourning, 744 workers were listed as having died from workplace injuries. In 2005, numbers from the Association of Workers Compensation Boards of Canada showed 1,097 workers were killed due to workplace injuries.
In B.C., 160 workplace fatalities were recorded in 2006. Of these, 61 deaths were a result of occupational diseases, 12 deaths involved young workers aged 15-24, 22 occurred in the forest industry, 35 were in general construction and 30 were from motor vehicle accidents, WorkSafe B.C. reports.
And just last month, three farm workers were killed in the latest in a string of accidents involving vans carrying agricultural labourers to job sites.
"The B.C. government certainly has some responsibility for these deaths as well," said Dunlop. "After coming to power, this government eliminated routine inspections of these vans."
The Okanagan has had its share of workplace tragedies in the past year. Among them: In January, a man died operating a tractor at a Westbank firewood business. In December, an electrician fell to his death on a construction site in Lake Country and last October, a man fell from a roof while doing framing and died in North Glenmore.
"These deaths are all preventable," said Dunlop, "and we should spare no measures and no costs to save workers' lives."
The theme of this year's Day of Mourning is Safe and Healthy Workplaces for All Workers.
"A job is not worth dying for," added Dunlop.
The NOLC will join with City of Kelowna workers (CUPE 338) in a Day of Mourning ceremony at 11 a.m. April 27 at the city works yard on Hardy Street. Dunlop will join a series of speakers that includes Mayor Sharon Shepherd.