More than 100 people in Vernon took a moment to reflect on the tragedies that have befallen workers and their families in the past, and what can be done to reduce occupational hazards going forward.
A gathering was held at city hall Thursday to mark the National Day of Mourning, honouring workers who have been killed, injured or fallen ill as a result of work-related incidents.
Last year, 161 people died from work-related injuries or illnesses in B.C., according to WorkSafeBC. That includes 53 people who succumbed to asbestos poisoning and 46 who died from other diseases, including COVID-19. Fifteen workers died in vehicle crashes and 47 others suffered traumatic injuries.
Some of those workplace tragedies took place close to home.
“Last year our Okanagan community experienced traumatic fatalities in several industries: agriculture, tourism, the service industry, and the tragic crane incident at a Kelowna construction site last summer,” said Dion Torhjelm, prevention officer for WorkSafeBC. The Kelowna crane collapse last July resulted in the deaths of five workers.
Some at the ceremony had lost loved ones to work-related death or injury, and there were some teary eyes in the crowd as Vernon Fire Rescue Services Chief David Lind took the mic to describe some of the times his work in emergency services led him to workplace tragedies.
“I remember two workers who lost their lives when a scaffolding collapsed at an industrial work site. I remember a hydro worker who was at the top of a pole when it failed. I remember Gary, a salesman, who was travelling during a winter storm, and he was involved in a horrible motor vehicle accident,” he said.
Lind also described some close calls he’s experienced personally in his career.
VFRS Chief David Lind described some of the health and safety close calls he’s experienced in the job as the city observed the National Day of Mourning Thursday morning. #NationalDayOfMourning @VernonNews pic.twitter.com/9y0uG71NoV
— Brendan Shykora (@brendanshykora) April 28, 2022
Vernon councillor Brian Quiring called it a “sombre but important” day.
“If I’ve learned anything over the last two years from the global pandemic and the measures that were widely put in place in response to the virus, it’s that we must take specific steps each and every day to ensure that health and safety are at the forefront of everything we do,” Quiring said.
Before the crowd observed a moment of silence, two members of Integrity Traffic Control, Michelle Hudson and Trina Garnot, were invited to place flower bouquets in front of a wreath in remembrance of their co-worker Belle Bourroughs, a flag person who was killed after being struck by a vehicle in Lavington on Nov. 17, 2017 — her 66th birthday.