Local mill observes National Day of Mourning

May 2, 2016

By: Merritt Herald

Today marks the date Canadians remember those hurt or killed on the job.

Wearing black armbands, employees of Merritt’s Tolko sawmill gathered outside their office around a half-mast United Steelworkers flag to recognize the National Day of Mourning.

Across Canada, April 28 has been designated as a day that workers, families, employers and others come together at ceremonies to remember those who have lost their lives on the job.

Merritt sawmill superintendent Dwayne Thiessen told the Herald that last year the local mill experienced seven accidents in the first six months of the year that resulted in employees missing work.

“Fortunately none of them were a high severity issue. All those individuals are back at work today,” he said noting that seven incidents in six months was a huge wake up call.

He said Tolko hasn’t had an incident that resulted in an employee missing work since June 22 of 2015.

There are a few shifts at the mill that previously had high rates of accidents that are now hitting safety milestones.

“For example, the sawmill B shift has just achieved one full year without an incident of any kind, [and] our maintenance department just achieved a year without a loss-time accident this week,” Thiessen said.

He said he’s excited for the mill as a whole to reach a full year without any loss-time accidents.

Tolko safety director Harbinder Hara said these achievements are a reflection of the changes the mill made to its safety program last year.

One change was increasing the frequency of safety talks with crews at work. Hara said the mill went from one safety talk per month to bi-monthly talks and currently has these talks bi-weekly.

He said they investigate where accidents occur in the mill and what body parts are being hurt, focusing safety education on those areas.

“We’re trying to [investigate] any sector we can catch and see where is our weakness or where are the injuries coming from [to] try to focus on that, so it’s coming along,” Hara said.

Across B.C. there were 122 work-related deaths in 2015, according to a WorkSafe B.C. fact sheet.

“April 28 is a day that everybody, collectively, gets together and reflects on that [number], to help instill a culture to care, and moving forward working safely so that nobody is having to mourn next year,” Thiessen said.

There was a drop in work related deaths in B.C. between 2014 and 2014. In 2014 there were 175 work related deaths compared to last year’s 122. There were 130 in 2013.

By: Merritt Herald

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