United Steelworker Union member Jason Sim still remembers the conversation he had with his coworker Steve McEachnie one day back in April of 2005.
McEachnie told Sim about his plans to head to his waterfront property on Lac La Hache after work with a load of sand and a bottle of whiskey.
But McEachnie did not make it to his property, and Sim was on the job when McEachnie was fatally injured in a workplace incident that day.
Sim was at the Day of Mourning ceremony in Williams Lake on April 28 to lay a wreath in honour of McEachnie and all of the workers killed and injured in the workplace on behalf of the United Steelworkers Union (USW).
Sim spoke of the anniversary of the mill explosions in Burns Lake and Prince George which resulted in deaths and injuries to fellow mill workers in the region and the need to ensure these tragedies are not repeated.
After his speech, Sim mentioned knowing coworkers who have lost fingers and toes, but acknowledged safety is improving.
“You have to hand it to the industry, they’re really stepping up to the plate,” he said.
Mike Dextrase, plant manager at Soda Creek for Tolko Industries, opened the ceremony outside City Hall in Williams Lake, as flags flew at halfmast behind him.
“April 28 is labour’s most solemn day,” said Dextrase, before leading the small crowd in observing a minute of silence for worker-related deaths and injuries.
Dextrase then encouraged everyone in the workplace to share safety lessons learned and best practices to improve the safety for all workers.
“One person alone can’t make the necessary changes, it takes all of us working together,” said Dextrase, emphasizing the need to take responsibility and bring forward lessons learned to make a safer future for all workers.
Occupational Safety Officer for WorkSafe BC Leonard Auger spoke as well, and said the 161 work-related deaths in the province in 2021 was an increase from 2020. Thirteen of those deaths were attributed to Covid-19 exposure in the workplace.
Wreaths were placed at the Workers’ Memorial on the city hall lawn by USW, WorkSafe BC, the city of Williams Lake and Tolko Industries Ltd.