Families in Nova Scotia who have had a loved one killed or injured in a workplace accident believe more change is needed to ensure others don’t have to endure the same pain.
Marking the National Day of Mourning to commemorate these workers, members of the public and elected officials gathered outside Province House in Halifax on Thursday, stopping for a moment of silence.
Nearly 30 years ago to the day, a buildup of methane gas sparked an explosion at the Westray Mine in Nova Scotia, which took the lives of 26 miners. Tragedy on that day lead to calls for more accountability and better safety measures within the workplace.
While improvements have been made, Genesta Halloran-Peters was forced to raise her children without their father, who died in the explosion.
On Thursday, she said the legacy of the disaster lives on not only through the families left behind but what it taught the province about workplace safety.
“We have come a long way in the past 30 years, but not far enough. Every year, lives are still being changed by workplace tragedies,” said Halloran-Peters.
Shannon Kempton, who lost her father following a workplace accident in 2013, said the shock from getting the call that you’ve lost a loved one is unexplainable.
Now, she works with families who are forced to endure the same feeling after a workplace accident. Kempton regularly contacts local officials to inform them of potential improvements to the system, but said her calls often fall on deaf ears.
“We need more inspectors, we need more investigation, we need a department that supports the families, and we need to involve the RCMP when a workplace accident happens,” said Kempton.
“It’s frustrating for me because I think as family members, we have a lot of good input that we could give the department, and it feels that they don’t want to hear that they want to go with status quo.”
When asked if more can be done to better protect workers, Minister of Labour, Skills and Immigration Jill Balser said they continue to try and work with families.
“We’re always listening, and we’re always looking at ways at which we can improve health and safety at the workplace. It is a commitment and a priority for the department to make sure that all Nova Scotians go to work and come home safely because that’s what everyone deserves is their loved ones to be able to come home,” said Balser.
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