By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
On the National Day of Mourning, citizens lay black roses at the feet of memorials across the country to remember those who have died on the job. As much as they are a symbol of remembrance, they are a symbol of strength in the fight for change.
One of those roses was in the name of Adam Brunt, a 30-year-old Durham College student who died during ice rescue training exercises last year. A group of his family members were in attendance for the tearful ceremony.
“It’s a day of remembrance in the sense of dealing with the people who are still surviving, also acknow
ledge the ones that have passed,” said a tearful Al Brunt, Adam’s father.
According to Al, all his son wanted to do with his life was to help other people.
“What a better way to do it than be a first responder?” he says.
“He was always willing to help anybody, he never said no to anybody. It was just the way he was.”
Now, his family is looking to ensure what happened to their son is not repeated.
“A person’s life is worth more than a job,” Al says.
“For us, it’s about getting policies to protect students, just like firefighters or anybody else and we’re committed to it.”
Compared to the guidelines that govern safety in the workplace, a gap seems to exist when it comes to those preparing for their eventual careers – something Oshawa MPP Jennifer French says needs to change.
“When we’re talking about workplace safety, a training environment sometimes isn’t a workplace, so we need to make sure that everyone is Ontario is covered,” she says.
“There is no reason for anybody to be working under unsafe working conditions. Employers who put their employees at risk do need to be held responsible.”
According to statistics from the Association of Worker’s Compensation Boards of Canada, 919 workers died while on the job in 2014. Of those, 13 were between the ages of 15 and 19.
“They’re not statistics, they are people, they’re friends, they’re neighbors,” French says. “They’re injured or they’re killed and they’re preventable circumstances.”
The same was said by Mayor John Henry.
“We as employers have an obligation to make sure that our people who come to work everyday go home at the end of the day the same way they came to work that morning and it’s important to understand that,” he said.
And the times are changing. In a precedent setting ruling in January, one of the owners of a Toronto contracting company was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in jail for his role in a scaffolding collapse that killed four workers on Christmas Eve in 2009.
“It’s extremely important that we keep up the fight,” says Rob Halpin, a spokesperson for the Ontario Federation of Labour.
“Employers across the province should be aware and that should send a chill down their spine that workers’ lives are worth more than just the bottom line.”