HEALTH & SAFETY: The Day of Mourning -- what does it mean during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Andrew Pariser / RESCON
COVID-19 has turned the world upside down and changed every aspect of our lives. Those involved in health and safety have put in endless hours gathering information, refining policies, and enhancing on-site practices to ensure every worker who arrives at work can return home when their shift is done. This year, we need the Day of Mourning even more to remind us of what is important, what has not changed and the opportunities this pandemic may create.
For one day, on April 28, the Day of Mourning, everyone in Ontario is meant to think like a health and safety professional. This is important: we focus on the failures of the past year measured through fatalities and occupational disease statistics as well as the task at hand – keeping workers safe. While health and safety requires a team effort, April 28 is a day for self-reflection, moments of silence and commitment to do better. Creating a culture of safety is important and it demands the attention and participation of all individuals.
The numbers have not changed enough. While Ontario continues to make meaningful improvements in safety, too many workers are injured in the course of employment or develop an occupational disease. Ontario needs to understand why injuries and fatalities continue. In order to improve, we need better data and an improved approach to safety. Ontario’s safety management system is one of the best in the country, relying on on-site joint health and safety committees and leaders, as well as other safety professionals focused on policy, implementation, analysis and future improvements. However, we need to build on these strengths and use them to continue our focus on safety. COVID-19 is the primary hazard right now, but it will not be the last hazard facing the construction industry.
In any crisis, there is an ability to change the status quo. On the Day of Mourning, we all need to think about how the impact of COVID-19 on construction can be used for positive change. Enhanced sanitization of sites and limiting the spread of the virus is everyone’s top priority. Increased availability of soap and water, wash stations as well as more focused communication between trades and with constructors are just some of the on-site improvements. How do we take these enhancements and permanently enshrine them as the pillars that future improvements can be built upon?
THREADS OF LIFE
On April 28, we must remember the workers and their families who are no longer with us. They made the ultimate sacrifice and we must honour their memory to do better. Threads of Life (https://threadsoflife.ca/) is a charity tied to the Day of Mourning. It connects families who have lost someone to a workplace accident to support volunteers who have also lost someone to a workplace-related accident. They provide assistance during a family’s darkest hours and have become a focal point of the Day of Mourning. Please consider supporting this charity and the incredibly important support they provide.
Finally, I would like to thank all of the frontline workers, including those employed in construction, health and safety, the healthcare industry and those keeping our supply chain going, including those in trucking, grocery stores and food processing. It is your dedication that is keeping Ontario workers and Ontario families safe during the pandemic, and your efforts are greatly appreciated.
Andrew Pariser is the vice-president of RESCON, chair of RESCON health and safety committee, and sits on IHSA, WSIB, and MOLTSD safety committees. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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