The statistics are sobering, the losses are irreplaceable and the commitment to change is ever present.

Last year, 175 B.C. workers died from a workplace injury or disease.

Across Canada, April 28 has been designated the Day of Mourning, a time when workers, families, employers and others come together to remember those who lost their lives due to work-related incidents or occupational diseases.

“The national Day of Mourning on April 28 is a chance to honour and remember the 175 workers in British Columbia who lost their lives last year due to workplace injury or disease — a day to reflect on those we’ve lost, and to renew our commitment to creating healthy and safe workplaces for everyone,” says Todd McDonald, head of Prevention Services at WorkSafeBC.

Occupational disease remained the single leading cause of death for B.C. workers last year, claiming 93 lives. Occupational diseases are conditions that result from the nature of an employee’s work, caused by exposure to hazardous substances in the workplace: asbestos, silica, solar radiation, welding fumes (cancer); sanitizers (asthma); lead (poisoning) or noise exposure (hearing loss).

WorkSafeBC is committed to engaging with workers and employers to help build a culture of workplace health and safety in B.C.

Employers must ensure their workers’ voices are heard by engaging them in their organization’s health and safety approach.

Workers can help build a health and safety culture by speaking up about any concerns, asking questions and knowing their rights. This includes the right to a healthy and safe workplace, the right to be properly trained and the right to refuse unsafe work.

Those who may feel unsure about speaking out are encouraged to call WorkSafeBC’s Prevention Information line at 604-276-3100 or 1-888-621-7322.

Creating safer, healthier workplaces requires all of us to work together: employers, workers, supervisors, industry associations, labour groups, other stakeholders and WorkSafeBC.

“It can begin with one conversation, one decision, one step in the right direction. It’s those seemingly small changes that can have a big impact,” McDonald says.

To learn more about the Day of Mourning, visit www.dayofmourning.bc.ca.