April 16, 2013
While April 28 has been designated the Day of Mourning, this year Vancouver’s Day of Mourning ceremony is Friday, April 26 at the Vancouver Convention Centre, Jack Poole Plaza area at 10:30 a.m.
This annual ceremony is held in memory of people who died from work-related injury or illness – hosted by WorkSafeBC, the B.C. Federation of Labour, and the Business Council of BC.
Power of public memory
Beyond the ceremony, in our own communities, let’s honour these lost workers by telling their stories. We all know someone – be it a loved one or a guy we knew in high school – and it’s so sad, especially when they were relatively young with so many plans and dreams.
Let’s do our part, as individuals, to prevent similar tragedies by talking about people we knew. Remembering together will strengthen our resolve as individuals.
Check out the Weekly Toll for stories of individuals lost from workplace tragedies. This American website is run by United Support and Memorial for Workplace Fatalities, a support group for people whose family members died at work.
“We know and understand the devastation which takes place in the mind, body and soul and we strive to help you and others from having to go through both the grieving process and investigative process alone,” reads the USMWF website.
Power of understanding
Sharing personal stories and knowing that others care can be comforting when you lose a loved one. Online memorials, where people leave comments, are an amazing new forum that hasn’t existed before in this format. It’s a new – and valuable – way for people to voice their feelings, which can be very freeing. We suffer in similar ways after losing amazing people, and not everyone understands, so it’s comforting to find others who do.
In Canada, we have Threads of Life, an organization I wrote about in my post Supporting Families After Workplace Tragedy. They organize the Steps for Life walks in communities across Canada to raise funds for their programs. It’s May 5 at the start of NAOSH Week.
May 14, 2012
I recently visited the CanSav website and read about the lives of people affected by asbestos-related illness.
Bob Katzka – founder of the Canadian Society for Asbestos Victims – emailed a link to the site when he introduced himself after finding my blog. I checked out his link right away – so glad he’d taken the time to write – and I noticed the site included a Tribute section.
That’s where I read about Bob’s father Michael, who died in 2008 from mesothelioma – a lung cancer nearly always caused by exposure to asbestos.
The tribute says Michael was only 18 – back in 1942 – when he joined the Canadian Navy and worked for two years on a ship that was “full of asbestos – the insulation, the boilers, etc.” After years of “excellent health,” Michael was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2007 and died four months later.
Value of sharing stories
Bob shared his father’s story and encourages others to do the same.
“By sharing experiences, those in pain may at least know the comfort that comes in the knowledge they are not alone,” reads the CanSav website.
“In many ways, the most significant and meaningful way to contribute is by sharing your own experiences with asbestos-related disease. Too many victims – those diagnosed as well as the people who love and care for them – have suffered under this burden alone.”
In addition to the tributes, the website includes links to articles on asbestos-related disease, support for people diagnosed with mesothelioma, information on exposure to asbestos in Canada, and links to more support.
WorkSafeBC’s HiddenKiller website includes information on what to do if you are concerned you have been exposed to asbestos or any other harmful substance at work.
Thanks to Bob for the introduction, and for all you’re doing for people faced with similar challenges to your dad’s.
October 13, 2011
Recently I heard a conversation on CBC radio between Heidi Von Palleske and her mother, in the last days of her life with mesothelioma – a rare cancer nearly always caused by asbestos exposure. The mother asked the daughter to record her plea to government and the asbestos industry that they end Canadian mining and exports.
She really wanted people to know about what happened to her – how her husband came home from work every day at the asbestos plant, covered in “fairy dust” and hugged her and the kids. She wanted to stop it from happening to others – here in Canada and elsewhere.
I thought about this recorded interview when I received an email from Ben Leer, introducing himself as the new Public Outreach Coordinator for the Mesothelioma Center (Asbestos.com). Ben said his organization is working hard to connect with other organizations and individuals – so I’d like to help by sharing their social media coordinates.
You can Like the Mesothelioma Facebook page that links people, resources, legal aid, and information on all asbestos issues ranging from occupational exposure to mesothelioma treatment options.
Follow them on Twitter @TheMesoCenter and on LinkedIn as “The Mesothelioma Centre.”
Their website Asbestos.com is “a comprehensive one-stop resource for all asbestos- and mesothelioma-related issues, from occupational exposure to treatment options.”
In July, I wrote about Paul Douglas, who survived 11 years after a mesothelioma diagnosis and an estimated six months to live. He wrote about his experiences in an online forum for others with his condition. WorkSafeBC created hiddenkiller.ca so you can “tune into the facts so that you, your coworkers, your friends, your family are protected.”
September 15, 2011
I read a story in OHS Magazine Online about a mining safety program in the US.
The Brookwood-Sago grant program is named in memory of 25 miners who died at work in Brookwood, Alabama and at the Sago Mine in Buckhannon, West Virginia.
The grant program announced $1 million will be available for eligible mining companies to help them identify, avoid, and prevent unsafe working conditions. It’s run by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA).
In 2010, there were 48 fatalities in the US mining industry, down from 1978 when 242 miners died and the MSHA started operating. That’s a big improvement with a long way to go – and I’m hopeful the Brookwood-Sago grants will make a difference.
Mining safely in BC
Here in BC, no miners died at work in 2010.
The injury rate for miners is the lowest among BC’s heavy industries, reports the Mining Association of BC on their website.
The BC mining industry is governed by a different set of rules. Most BC employers are subject to the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation, but mining companies are not. Instead, they are expected to comply with the Mines Act and The Health, Safety and Reclamation Code, administered by the BC Ministry of Energy and Mines.
Al Hoffman is the Ministry’s Chief Inspector of Mines/Executive Director of Health & Safety. I asked him, via email, what kind of safety training his ministry offered to BC mining companies. He said they offer “mine rescue and musculoskeletal (ergonomics) training, occupational health and safety committee training, and industrial hygiene.”
But legally, it’s up to the mining companies when it comes to safety training, he says.
“The Health Safety and Reclamation Code puts the onus on the mine manager to develop, implement and follow up training programs for all mine employees. The review of these training programs and the maintenance of training records is closely reviewed during our inspection and audit process.”
For more information on mining in BC, check out:
Mining from the BC Archives Time Machine
B.C. Mining: A Rich History and a Promising Future from the BC Ministry of Energy and Mines
2010 BC Mining Survey, a report by PriceWaterhouseCooper
May 05, 2011
Congratulations to Francesca Alfano, a teacher/librarian in Hamilton, who has won a copy of Forget Me Not: Canadian Stories of Workplace Tragedy from the Families’ Perspective. Francesca won the book by re-tweeting a link to my earlier post about the book.
Threads of Life asked me to keep one copy of Forget Me Not and give one away (hence the contest). When the book arrived in the mail, I opened it to a random page and saw the story of Josh Tullett. He survived his workplace injury, slicing off three of his fingers with a table saw when he was 18, but six years later he’s in recovery from an addiction to OxyContin – a prescribed painkiller that Josh stopped taking as prescribed, eventually snorting it like cocaine.
“It got to the point where, if I didn’t do a line the moment I woke up, I couldn’t function. I couldn’t get out of bed… I had to have OxyContin every single day just to function,” reads the story on page 60.
After six years, on and off, he managed to clean up from his habit eight months ago. At publication, he was working again, and living clean and sober.
Families share lessons learned
Twenty-one families told their stories and described their emotions in the book. The book’s back cover calls it “a first-ever glimpse into the overturned lives of families following a workplace tragedy…a timely dinner conversation for parents and children…a companion piece for workplace health and safety orientation for young and new workers….”
I look forward to reading this important memorial and sharing more of its stories with you on this blog. You can also order your own copy of the book.
April 26, 2011
Greg Shoesmith was only 22 when he died at work, operating a logging skidder near Barriere, BC.
His story is featured in a new book called Forget Me Not – Canadian Stories of Workplace Tragedy from the Families’ Perspective.
As Greg drove his empty skidder along a ridge, he hit a strip of shale with his skidder’s right track. The skidder began to slide.
“Immediately below the ridge was a 1.8 metre embankment. Momentum sent the skidder over the embankment. It rolled over onto its roof, back on its track, and onto its roof again before finally righting itself,” reads the family’s story, written by Scott Williams.
Book sales to raise money for families
I heard about this unique book: Forget Me Not – published by Threads of Life – from Leslie Heatherington, who offered me a chance to read “Losing Greg” – one of 21 stories in the book – in advance of the book’s official launch on April 28 on the Day of Mourning to remember workers who have lost their lives.
A goal of Forget Me Not is to be a wake-up call to create safer workplaces for all, including the most vulnerable. It includes stories from the families of people who died while working in mining, industrial, construction, electrical, auto shop, elevator, rail, fisheries, recreational, forestry, transportation, maintenance, agricultural, carpentry, iron working, municipal, and groundskeeping.
Would you like a free copy of Forget Me Not?
Leslie also offered me two copies of the book: one to keep and one to give away. If you would like to have a free copy of this book, please comment below or tweet a link to this post on Twitter using the hashtag #forgetmenotbk
All names will be entered into a random draw on April 28, 2011 at noon.
March 24, 2011
On March 25, 1911, 148 people died at work – trapped by a fire in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York City.
“When a tossed match or lit cigarette ignited a fire on the eighth floor of the building, flames spread quickly,” reads the PBS website.
“Blanck and Harris [the employers] received warning by phone and escaped, but the 240 workers on the ninth floor continued stitching, oblivious to the flames gathering force on the floor below.”
This tragedy “forever changed the relationship between labor and industry in the United States. Within three years, more than 36 new state laws had passed regulating fire safety and the quality of workplace conditions.”
I’ve been watching YouTube videos with interviews of people who were there. The majority were women, nearly half were teenagers, and many were new immigrants.Those workers were trying to support families for a low wage from an employer who locked them in to prevent theft and left them to die. Let’s remember them.
You can watch the documentary online at the PBS website.
March 10, 2011
The Weekly Toll: Death in the American Workplace is a memorial blog that tells the stories of people who die at work in the United States.
Up to 16 Americans die at work each day and the United Support and Memorial for Workplace Fatalities formed to remember them and lobby for improved safety conditions.
“Our lost loved ones were the very ones making your profit. We are not asking for more than we are entitled to, Our Right, The Right to a Safe and Healthful Workplace,” reads the USMWF’s website.
“We are the brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers and children of America. Families and their losses are not a number or a statistic.” Read more
March 03, 2011
Steps For Life is a fundraising walk to raise money for families who lost loved ones in workplace tragedies. On April 30 or May 1, 2011, people in 33 Canadian communities will walk together and remember the human faces behind the statistics.
“We set up pictures and stories, on the walk, of people who have died throughout the year. As you’re walking you get to read the real person’s story,” said Tanya Steele – one of the organizers of Metro Vancouver’s second annual Steps For Life walk on April 30.
“It’s recognizing the reality of how many people are actually killed at work. I think it’s important for people to understand that people are still dying at work. That is ridiculous. People shouldn’t be dying at work,” said Tanya, director of training and client services at ER Plus Risk Management Group in Richmond.
I met Tanya at the NAOSH Week awards last fall and called her recently to see what she’s working on these days. She told me about her volunteer work with Steps For Life, a project she’s doing with two of her coworkers and other volunteers from the Canadian Society of Safety Engineers and Threads of Life – a national organization formed in 2003 by grieving family and friends.
ER Plus is supplying first aid services for the Metro Vancouver walk – and local sponsors are still needed for contributing food and other donations to this family event that marks the start of NAOSH Week. Last year, it was mainly adults, but organizers are hoping more kids will attend this time. They might even get a bouncy castle!
Interested sponsors can email Tanya at firstname.lastname@example.org.