April 28 – National Day of Mourning
April 28 – National Day of Mourning
We pause every April 28 to remember workers killed and those who still suffer from a work-related injury or illness, their lives and livelihoods forever compromised.
But we can never pause our prevention efforts.
Take time to remember
- Attend a Day of Mourning ceremony in your community. Encourage others to attend an event LINK
- Draft a message for your organization’s publication or web site
- Coordinate a Day of Mourning event in your workplace LINK
- Work with local media to promote and cover the Day’s significance and events
- Convince employers and public institutions to among other things lower flags to half-mast
- Share the stories of workers injured and killed on the job – ensure they are not forgotten
- History of the Day of Mourning LINK
Every day of the year
- Educate others about health and safety rights, responsibilities and prevention measures
- Insist on effective workplace prevention programs developed with full worker participation
- Insist on training that supports the identification, assessment and control of workplace hazards
- Encourage local media to report on health, safety and environmental issues
- Press elected officials to support stronger regulations and better enforcement of existing laws
- Create monuments to promote public awareness of workplace health and safety
Make time for prevention
- Demand high quality training that promotes a hazard-based approach
- Become a workplace health & safety representative
- Identify and report workplace hazards
Every year thousands of people gather around the world on April 28th to observe the National Day of Mourning. The purpose of Day of Mourning is twofold – to remember and honour those lives lost or injured because of their work and to renew the commitment to prevent further deaths, injuries and diseases by improving health and safety in the workplace.
April 28th is observed in many different ways around the world.
Many labour organizations, unions, families, communities and government agencies coordinate public events that include speeches, a moment of silence, laying wreaths and flowers, lighting candles, planting trees, unveiling monuments, balloon releases, laying out empty shoes or hard hats to symbolize those who have died at work. Some events involve active campaigning on relevant issues, public demonstrations or workplace or public awareness sessions that provide information regarding occupational health and safety.
Individuals don ribbons, black armbands, bracelets, or stickers to show their support. Workers on the water, in trains or in transport trucks will often blow their whistle or horn at 11:00 am in honour of the day. The Canadian flag on Parliament Hill is typically flown at half-mast, as it is in many other communities.
As reported to the Workers Compensation Board, in 2014:
• 203 workers died
• 4 young workers
• 113 died from occupational disease
According to the Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada, nationally:
• Every year, approximately 1000 workers die.
• Every day, nearly 3 workers die.
• Every year, workers suffer from 250,000 work-related injuries/diseases.
• Every day, workers suffer from 685 work-related injuries/diseases.
The Day of Mourning has a very proud Canadian labour history. At the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) convention in 1984, a resolution was submitted by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) National Health and Safety Committee recommending the creation of a remembrance day for workers killed or injured on the job – this resolution was readily adopted by the convention delegates. The date
April 28th was chosen as on April 28 in 1914 the first comprehensive workers compensation act was passed in the legislature.
The CLC officially declared and recognized the National Day of Mourning on April 28, 1985. In Canada, over 25,000 workers have died due to work-related injury or disease since 1985.
In December 1990, following years of lobbying efforts by Canadian unions and the NDP, the federal government passed Bill C-223, the Workers Mourning Day Act, make April 28, 1991 the first government recognized National Day of Mourning. The Act is a brief piece of legislation, which reads, in part:
“Throughout Canada, in each and every year, the 28th day of April shall be known under the name of Day of Mourning for Persons Killed or Injured in the Workplace.”
This movement quickly spread outside of Canada. In the United States in 1989, the American Federation of Labour began to recognize April 28th as Workers’ Memorial Day. The United Kingdom (UK) began their campaign to recognize this day in 1992. Workers’ Memorial Day was adopted by the Scottish Trade Union Congress (TUC) in 1993, the UK TUC in 1999 and the UK Health and Safety Commission in 2000.
The International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International TUC (ITUC) declared the International Day of Mourning in 1996. Let us carry on the international cry to: “MOURN for the Dead and FIGHT for the Living!”