David Ellis of Oakville should be almost 40 years old. What would he be doing today? Would he still be drumming in a garage band with his friends? Would he be passing his love of sports on to his children? We don’t know and we never will, because in 1999, when he was just 18, David was killed on his second day of work.

David took the job at a local bakery to save money for university, a responsible first step towards building a future he would never see. With limited training and no on-site supervision, David was struck in the head by the blade of an industrial mixer that turned on while he was cleaning it. He died in hospital six days later.

D is for David.

David’s death was completely preventable, but when workplace safety takes a back seat, stories like his are inevitable. Roughly 1,000 Canadians die on the job every year, and not just in lines of work that we think of as hazardous. “Statistics are valuable tools. They can tell us broadly whether our workplaces are getting safer and show us where we need to focus our efforts,” says Elizabeth Witmer, Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) Chair. “Personal stories take us beyond the numbers and help us better understand what is at stake every time we set out for work and why it’s important to continuously renew our commitment to health and safety.” 

Remembering past loss to prevent future loss

We all send our loved ones off to work every day, not knowing whether or not their story could turn into David’s. David’s family certainly wasn’t ready for the phone call they received that day.

Every April 28th, Canada observes a National Day of Mourning for those who’ve been injured, killed, or suffered illness  in the workplace. The atmosphere at Day of Mourning ceremonies across the country is understandably somber and grim. So many are there because they have personally received that phone call — because, without knowing it at the time, they had exchanged the last words they ever would with their loved one. As we reflect on these losses, the most powerful way that we can honour their memories is to ensure that other Canadians are not at the same risk today. Workplace fatalities can be prevented, and every Canadian deserves to come home safe from work every day. Even one death is too many. 

This April 28th join the WSIB and all Canadians in taking a moment of silence for David and the many others whose lives were cut needlessly short. Also, take a moment to ask whether everything is being done in your workplace to keep you safe and whether the workplaces of your loved ones are thoroughly protecting them. Are you prepared for that phone call? None of us are. And only through a national commitment to actively improving job safety in every workplace can we keep the phone from ringing.