Nearly 300 students and representatives from local service groups gathered at Fraser Lake’s White Swan Park for the National Day of Mourning on April 28.
It’s the first time for the local school population to be invited into this year’s commemorative event for those who died or suffered injuries from work-related incidents every year, said organizer Isabel Smith.
“It’s okay to ask questions even though you’re scared to lose your job, because you have the right to do so and sometimes it’s not safe,” said Smith, whose 17-year-old niece died 11 years ago when she was working as a summer student at Fraser Lake Sawmills.
Last month, Fraser Lake Elementary-Secondary’s Planning 10 class promoted student awareness of workplace safety through an information booth at school.
For Grade 10 students Gavin Janzen and Layla Ostrom, it’s an opportunity to learn safety tips not only for themselves, but also to regard safety as looking out for others.
“Kids our age never things too seriously,” Janzen said. “We don’t pay attention and we just get easily distracted and entertained.”
He cited an incident when he was working in the bush, and while cutting down an old rotten tree, it almost fell onto him.
“When it was collapsing, I was chatting with friends,” Janzen said. “I could have pay attention a lot more and analyze the situation a lot more.”
Ostrom echoed that it’s about paying attention and, depending on the task, reading instructions properly and thinking about hazards clearly.
“Most people were oblivious about how many deaths and who have passed away on the job, even in a small town,” Ostrom said. “It’s about getting the word out there.”
Deborah Goertz, who lost her brother Kelly Goertz from Vanderhoof at a work-related incident, also spoke to the crowd about her experience.
“It’s about bringing people together,” Goertz said. “It brings back the memory for the ones who lost…you laugh, you cry.”
Fraser Lake Fire Chief James Cochran read out at the event American author Don Merrell’s poem I Chose to Look the Other Way, which was used as part of Endako mine’s safety orientation.
“It’s a powerful message, and it seems to hit home every time,” Cochran said.