The mother of one of the victims of last summer’s crane collapse in Kelowna is speaking out on a day to remember those who lost their lives in a workplace accident.
A ceremony was held on April 28, the National Day of Mourning, at Kelowna’s Ben Lee Park.
Danielle Pritchett is the mother of Cailen Vilness, one of five men who died July 12, 2021 when a crane collapsed at a construction site in Kelowna’s downtown.
Pritchett spoke at the ceremony of her son’s eagerness for a safe work environment.
“He would come over to my house after work at various jobs and he would tell me of the infractions that he would see,” she said. “I said to him, ‘Cailen, you can refuse unsafe work and nobody can fire you.’ And so that’s what he began to do. He began to point out if somebody wasn’t tied off properly or whatever the infractions were that he saw and he began to be ostracized by his coworkers. He was ostracized by his bosses, the foremen, the company. He was even demoted in his duties on the job.”
Kelowna City Councillor Mohini Singh took to the mic.
“More recently we had Harmandeep who was murdered on the job,” she said with an unsteady voice, referencing the death of UBCO Security Guard Harmandeep Kaur. “It should not have happened. She was a young girl working at UBC only because she wanted to go to university there and she needed the job.”
There were a total of 161 work-related deaths in 2021, an increase of 10 from the year before.
“Occupational disease remains the single-leading cause of death for B.C. workers in 2021,” said WorkSafeBC Occupational Safety Officer Carl Howells. “It took 99 lives…many as a result of asbestos-related disease. 13 workers died because of COVID-19 exposure in their workplace.”
“This is our responsibility as a community, as a culture,” Pritchett said to conclude her speech. “If I’ve touched one heart here today…then if I’ve touched one heart and caused them to change the way they look at safety I’ve done my job here today.”