Last week on this blog, we heard from Shirley Hickman, who shared the story of her son, Tim, who died in a workplace explosion.

Shirley also talked about the National Day of Mourning – a day dedicated to those whose lives have been lost or changed forever by workplace injury. We promised, in that post, that we would come back to the Day of Mourning to explain more.

Every year, on April 28, the Canadian flag on Parliament Hill flies at half-mast. Workers at businesses across the country wear ribbons and black armbands, light candles and observe moments of silence to honour the victims of workplace injury. Businesses everywhere are asked to participate, and to commit to doing everything possible to prevent workplace deaths, illnesses and injuries.

For the friends and families of the victims, the day has a particularly poignant significance. It’s a day specifically dedicated to their lost friends or family members, and a chance for them to meet others whose lives have been similarly touched.

Shirley“Too often we have to put on a mask and pretend that everything is OK,” said Shirley. “This event allows us to take off the mask and reflect openly. At many Day of Mourning events, family member are asked to share some thoughts about their lost loved one and how the loss (either by injury, disease or death) has changed the family forever.”

Shirley emphasized that the Day of Mourning should be one of respect, and not a day of protest. Respect for those workers who have been injured, become ill or died, and for their family members – for lives forever changed.

To be able to attend a Day of Mourning event allows people to take time from a busy life to pause and reflect. Even more powerful is that you can see the support from government, unions and employers. Everyone standing in tribute for one cause. Together we remember. Together we can make a change in the lives of others.

Among the many victims we would like to honour on April 28 are those we have written about on this blog. Check out our Safety survivors and Human side of safety series to read the stories of some of those who have been injured or lost their lives to workplace accidents.

Will you be holding a Day of Mourning event at your workplace? If you would like to participate, check out these commemorative posters, pins and stickers available from Canadian Occupational Heath and Safety (CCOHS).

And stay tuned for information on North American Occupational Safety and Health (NAOSH) Week in an upcoming blog post. Like the Day of Mourning, this event is organized in part by CCOHS, and is a further way North American companies band together to get everyone home safely every day.