Yesterday, I walked home via a different route than normal and I passed by this beautiful granite monument to 100 workers who died on the job. There are bronze plaques naming a worker and his or her cause of death for each year from 1901 to 1999. The plaque for the year 2000 is blank.
I am reminded of The Condition of the Working Class in England by Friedrich Engels (1845):
“When one individual inflicts bodily injury upon another, such injury that death results, we call the deed manslaughter; when the assailant knew in advance that the injury would be fatal, we call his deed murder. But when society – and by that I mean the ruling power of society – places hundreds of proletarians in such a position that they inevitably meet a too early and unnatural death, one which is quite as much death by violence as that by the sword or bullet; when it deprives thousands of the necessaries of life, places them under conditions in which they cannot live – forces them, through the strong arm of the law, to remain in such conditions until that death ensues which is the inevitable consequence – knows that these thousands of victims must perish, and yet permits these conditions to remain, its deed is murder just as surely as the deed of a single individual; disguised, malicious murder, murder against which none can defend himself, which doesn’t seem what it is, because no man sees the murderer, because the death of the victim seems a natural one, since the offence is more one of omission than of commission. But murder it remains.”
According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety:
“The most recent statistics from the Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada (AWCBC) tell us that in 2015, 852 workplace deaths were recorded in Canada. Among those dead were four young workers aged fifteen to nineteen years; and another eleven workers aged twenty to twenty-four years.
“Add to these fatalities the 232,629 claims accepted for lost time due to a work-related injury or disease, including 8,155 from young workers aged fifteen to nineteen, and the fact that these statistics only include what is reported and accepted by the compensation boards, and it is safe to say that the total number of workers impacted is even higher.
“What these numbers don’t show is just how many people are directly affected by these workplace tragedies. Each worker death impacts the loved ones, families, friends and coworkers they leave behind, changing all of their lives forever.”
Be careful out there.
The featured image is 100 Workers by John Scott & Stewart H. Pollock in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Photo by Beth French.