Day of mourning held for 131 workers killed on job in 2018

Woman who lost her dad in 2010 tells ceremony of the pain of losing a loved one

Injured worker Mike Shaw accepts a flower as hundreds of people attend a day of nourning at Jack Poole Plaza in Vancouver on April 28, 2019. The annual eventg commemorates workers who have been killed or seriously injured as a result of their job. Arlen Redekop / PNG

Sadaf Abdul knows all too well the pain felt by the family and friends of the 131 British Columbians who died last year from work-related causes. Her father was killed on the job in 2010.

In a speech to the 250 people gathered Sunday on Vancouver’s waterfront to mark the national day of mourning for workers, Abdul recalled how two weeks before her 15th birthday, she and her dad, Abdul Salam Rahimi, had a long chat about her birthday party and other things.

During their talk, Rahimi, a painter, got a call from an employee saying he wouldn’t be able to work the next day.

Rahimi asked his daughter if she would come to work with him. She had worked with him before but only on weekends and she told him she couldn’t because she had to prepare for an upcoming exam.

The next morning, Jan. 19, 2010, he popped his head into her room and asked her one last time if she would like to join him.

“I didn’t know that was the last time I would say goodbye to my dad,” said Abdul, now 24.

Rahimi died that day after a four-storey fall from an unsecured scaffolding while painting a ceiling of a building in downtown Vancouver.

Abdul saw him in a coma in hospital and heard the doctor say “your father will not make it past this evening.”

“I held my dad’s hand and I prayed and I prayed,” said an emotional Abdul.

Saduf Abdal receives a hug after speaking about her father who was killed on the job. Hundreds of people attended Day of Mourning at Jack Poole Plaza in Vancouver on April 28, 2019. The annual Day of Mourning on April 28 commemorates workers who have been killed or seriously injured as a result of their job. Arlen Redekop / PNG

Rahimi, who had escaped Afghanistan in 1995, living in Russia for years before immigrating in 2003 to Canada, left his wife Zakia and four children under 16.

Abdul said she she’s grateful for the support the family received and feels fortunate to live in Canada, which “does not leave you to fight your own battles” after a workplace accident.

Against a backdrop of the North Shore mountains and behind a row of more than three dozen floral wreaths placed by various union locals and an empty coffin, other speakers called for safer workplaces and better support for surviving family members and recovering workers injured on the job.

Mike Shaw, a freestyle skiing coach who broke his neck just before Christmas in 2013 and rehabbed his way back to walking despite an early prognosis he would never walk again, is part of WorkSafeBC’s young and new worker program. He speaks to high school students and other youth about the importance of safety on the job.

Labour Minister Harry Bains told the ceremony “we shouldn’t have to wait for tragedy to strike” before improving workplace safety. He also spoke about the need to treat injured workers with “dignity and respect” and provide them with care and support they need to fully recover.

Laird Cronk, president of the B.C. Federation of Labour, said the number of people killed on the job is “simply unacceptable.”

He said some progress has been made for injured workers by helping surviving workers who develop a disease or disorder that’s recognized as being associated with certain occupations. Recent changes to legislation allows, for instance, front line workers such as nurses or police officers to receive treatment for post-traumatic stress without having to prove it was work related.

“But mental disorder presumption should be granted regardless of the occupation,” said Cronk.

Greg D’Avignon, president of the Business Council of B.C., said improvements are needed to ensure job safety because “no one should be injured while earning a living.”

Of the 131 work-related death claims accepted by WorkSafeBC in 2018, 66 were a result of occupational disease (such as disease caused by historical exposure to asbestos) and 65 were from traumatic injury (including 24 from traffic accidents), said WorkSafeBC.

All but six of those killed were male and the worst industries were construction (30 deaths), transportation and related services (20) and public administration (14). Four were young workers.

Last week, hundreds of students at more than 180 schools took part in the day of mourning schools project to educate students about workplace safety.




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