By Breanne Massey – Trail Daily Times
Published: April 30, 2012 4:00 PM and April 27, 2012 4:00 PM
Ear-piercing sounds of traffic rolled off of sunny Highway 3 Saturday, but the United Steelworkers Local 480 had a message that couldn’t be silenced.
The United Steelworkers Local 480 departed from the local 480 Hall—with members of the Greater Trail community—for the 28th annual Day of Mourning. The procession marched along Bay Ave behind piper Gordon Titsworth until they arrived at the Family and Memorial Worker Park near Cominco Arena where they expressed memories for people who lost their lives.
The memorial honours colleagues who died from occupational diseases or work-related accidents, but one person was on everybody’s mind.
Lonnie Plasko’s tragic death is an iconic example of an accident nobody could’ve imagined in this region. Many of his friends and family members remain devastated about the train derailment that killed him five years ago, and hope to use public events like this, as a preventative platform.
“I saw him that day. He went down that hill and he never came back,” said Gilbert Morrison, Plasko’s former colleague and friend. “And the worst part of it is, he was blamed for that accident.”
Morrison and his wife, Rita, expressed concerns for other people who have suffered from work-related accidents—but the memories of Plasko struck a familiar chord with most attendees. Plasko certainly never planned to die, nobody plans to die, it was an accident Morrison concluded.
Many other people found the ceremony emotional too.
“I think that would have been his 25th year of work,” said Tracy McLaughlin, Plasko’s stepdaughter. “We come every year to remember.”
The 28th Annual Day of Mourning puts things into perspective for people who haven’t lost somebody from a work-related accident. WorkSafe BC recorded that almost three million days were lost as a result of injuries or diseases sustained in the workplace. In B.C.,17 workers are permanently disabled on a daily basis.
But, the community remembers Plasko as “a kind and caring person who loved his job” and never made it home. He’s not just a statistic.
“I think the ceremony went very, very well,” said Gord Menelaws, the health and safety chair for the United Steelworkers Local 480.
“You can tell it means a lot to people because of today’s turnout.”
“It’s to remember workers who died or were injured—it’s like Remembrance Day,” said Steve Como, the safety coordinator at Teck. “Unfortunately these kinds of things do happen.”
The procession led to a forum for residents in Greater Trail to honor friends, family members and colleagues who have passed away while they were trying to earn a living.
Their lives were be celebrated in a prayer, march and a public address from David Mitchell, a local occupational hygiene office.
The ceremony is a national day of mourning that raises red flags about the importance of utilizing preventative safety measures on job sites.
“A lot of times we get so overwhelmed by our daily tasks and we don’t get time to reflect on the people who have been killed on the job,” said Gord Menelaws, the health and safety chair for the United Steelworkers Local 480. “These are people just like you and me, they left to do an honest day of work and for whatever reason, they never returned home.”
The ceremony provides a public celebration of life and it allows the community to mourn for the dead, and fight for the living.
In 2011, WorkSafe B.C indicated that almost three million (2,870,352) days were lost as a result of injuries or diseases sustained in the workplace.
In B.C., an average of 2.7 workers die each week, 2,715 work injuries are reported every week and 17 workers are permanently disabled on a daily basis. According to WorkSafe B.C., the Central Kootenay region recorded one death, and another in the Kootenay Boundary region in the last year.
“We’ve done a lot of work to reduce injuries on job sites,” said Menelaws, “and we’ve made a lot gains.”