Workplace safety highlighted at Day of Mourning ceremony

Saturday’s annual Day of Mourning ceremony in Williams Lake will be dedicated to the two workers who lost their lives.

Saturday’s annual Day of Mourning ceremony in Williams Lake will be dedicated to the two workers who lost their lives during the Babine Forest Products mill explosion in Burns Lake in January.

“Carl Charlie and Robert Luggi, two First Nations individuals, were well connected with their community.

“We are going to dedicate the ceremony to them. Burns Lake is having a very large ceremony and theirs is going to be dedicated to the two of them obviously,” says Eric Freeston, chair for the Day of Mourning in Williams Lake, and member of the United Steelworkers — Local 1-425.

Freeston says the day is not about pointing fingers at industry, but about the fact that safety on the workplace affects everyone.

“I think the best way to deal with safety at the workplace is to lobby government for stronger legislation, instead of de-regulations that we’ve been seeing.”

Last week city council voted in favour of proclaiming Saturday April 28, 2012 as a Day of Mourning, giving authorization to fly the flag at half mast.

Citing statistics, Freeston points out that since 2000 there have been 10,000 fatalities on the job in Canada.

In 2011 there were 142 work-related deaths in B.C., and three of those were in the Cariboo.

“That’s the reason why it’s absolutely necessary that we mark the Day of Mourning on an annual basis to remind people that safety is everyone’s concern.”

An accident-free place might be a tough target to achieve, but continuing to strive for that goal is crucial.

When one employee dies, there’s a ripple effect into the community where that person lives.

“I think what happened up in Burns Lake brings home that point very clearly.

“That’s two fatalities in B.C. already and we’re only part way through the year.”

Freeston also advocates for educating workers, especially younger ones, about their rights to a safe work place.

“They need to know that they can legally refuse to do anything that compromises their safety and if they do that, they can’t be fired.”

That goes for seniors, too, who might be afraid they may lose their jobs and take unnecessary risks, he adds.

This Saturday’s event takes place at 11 a.m. at  Williams Lake’s city hall.

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