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National Day of Mourning: A call to keep workplace safety top of mind

By COS staff

On April 28 each year, organizations across Canada mark the National Day of Mourning, an annual observance to honour workers whose lives have been lost, or affected by workplace injuries, disabilities or disease.

On average, every day in Canada two people die or get sick due to a disease or injury incurred from work-related causes, according to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS).

The National Day of Mourning offers employers and employees an opportunity to not only remember but to publicly renew their commitment to improve health and safety in the workplace.

"It’s also a day where we rededicate ourselves to protect the living and future generations of our working colleagues through commitment and action," said Steve Horvath, president and CEO, CCOHS. "I encourage all working Canadians to be change agents (leaders) and help us raise awareness about the preventable nature of workplace accidents and illnesses so we can make an unhealthy environment socially unacceptable.”

Today, various events are taking place acres the country to express remembrance for the family, friends and colleagues who have suffered in carrying out workplace duties. The Canadian flag on Parliament Hill will fly at half-mast. Workers will light candles, don ribbons and black armbands, and observe moments of silence.

In 2013, 902 workplace deaths were recorded in Canada. While it’s the lowest total since 2000 when 882 fatalities were recorded, this number still represents 2.47 deaths every single day, according to the Association of Workers Compensation Boards of Canada.

The National Day of Mourning was officially recognized by the federal government in 1991, eight years after the day of remembrance was launched by the Canadian Labour Congress. The day of mourning has since spread countries around the world, most often known as Workers' Memorial Day, and has been adopted by the AFL-CIO and the International Confederation of Free Trade.

In addition, the International Labour Organization (ILO) celebrates the World Day for Safety and Health at Work on April 28 to promote the prevention of occupational accidents and diseases globally.

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