OPSEU’s 30-second ad, which will air for one week on 67 stations across the province, will mark the National Day of Mourning, held every year on April 28.
OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas noted that this year’s Day of Mourning comes just days before the 25th anniversary of the Westray mining disaster in Nova Scotia that left 26 workers dead.
“The memory of Westray will never diminish,” said Thomas. “It serves as a powerful reminder that no worker should ever go to work fearful that they may not return home alive.”
Across Canada in 2015, 852 workers were killed on the job and more than 230,000 were injured, according to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety.
“It’s easy to say, ‘One death is one too many,’ but it’s true,” Thomas said. “The reality is that all workplace deaths and injuries are preventable, but a lack of political will to tighten enforcement of our existing health and safety laws, combined with an uncaring attitude by too many employers, add up to deadly workplaces.”
Thomas noted that death and injury statistics fail to reflect the number of workers who acquire job-related illnesses, which can go undiagnosed for years or even decades.
Despite a growing workforce, the number of public health and safety inspectors in Ontario has remained fixed at about 370 since 2004, said Neil Martin, OPSEU co-chair of the labour-management committee at the Ontario Ministry of Labour.
“More of our time is now spent investigating death and injuries and less time is spent enforcing existing health and safety regulations,” Martin said. “We still have far too many unsafe workplaces.”