Deadly workplaces are killing Canadians and Americans at an unprecedented rate, resulting in 42,882 occupational fatalities in the U.S. and 10,743 in Canada between 2000 and 2010.*
“This is unacceptable,” says Maryanne Pope, widow of Const. John Petropoulos, a Canadian police officer who succumbed to head injuries sustained after falling through an unmarked false ceiling on September 29, 2000.
“As John’s widow, I think one workplace fatality is one too many,” says Pope. “Over 50,000 deaths is shocking. As Board Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund, this stat tells me we all still have a great deal of work to do to get these numbers down.”
There was no safety railing to warn John – or anyone else – of the danger. He was searching a warehouse during the investigation of a suspected break-and-enter. There ended up being no intruder in the building. John was 32.
More than a decade later, the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund (JPMF) raises public awareness about workplace safety issues facing emergency responders – on both sides of the border. The Fund’s 5 TV public service announcements have aired well over half a million times in Canada and parts of the United States. The powerful 10-minute safety video, Put Yourself in Our Boots, is being shown in safety meetings, conferences and community presentations throughout North America.
Since Cst Petropoulos’ death, 1,795 American police officers have died in the line of duty**.
Some of these were preventable, as was Cst Petropoulos’ death.
“There is a myth,” says Pope, “that when a police officer dies in the line of duty, it is tragic, yes – but it is an accepted risk of the job. In reality, many police officer deaths can be prevented, when communities work together to help minimize the risks.”
Pope points to the Jan 21, 2012 death of Officer Garret Davis of the Honolulu Police Department in Hawaii. “Our SLOW DOWN; It’s No Picnic Out Here public service announcement addresses the significant issue of officers getting struck by passing motorists while on the road (either in or out of their police vehicle), carrying out their duties.”
The PSA educates motorists about the importance of slowing down when passing emergency services personnel on the road…and giving them room to work.
Sadly, 11 U.S. police officers were struck and killed in traffic-related incidents in 2010***.
Another way Pope is striving to raise public awareness about workplace issues facing emergency responders is through her creative non-fiction book, A Widow’s Awakening. It was published in 2008 and has sold over 1500 copies. With the audio version now available, the author hopes to reach more people with her message about the horrific personal impacts of a police officer’s death.
“A Widow’s Awakening,” Pope admits, “is not an easy read, I realize that.”
Click here to hear a short audio clip (1 min 30 sec) from A Widow’s Awakening.
“You almost want to apologize,” wrote Michael Platt of the Calgary Sun newspaper, “reading Maryanne Pope’s account of her husband’s death. So vivid is her description, you feel like an intruder…a voyeuristic journey both heart wrenching and uncomfortable.”
“But by demonstrating the reality,” Pope explains, “of the immense impacts on the loved ones left behind, it is my hope that more people will take a moment to stop, look around their workplace from the perspective of an emergency responder who may have to attend during an emergency, and ask themselves: is it safe…for everyone? If not, then make a change.”
“If people make their workplaces safer for emergency responders,” concurs Ian Wilson, Managing Director of the JPMF, “they also make it safer for everybody, including their own employees, visitors and service workers.”
Unfortunately, there are thousands of people struggling to put back together the pieces of their lives, left shattered when a loved one – a police officer or otherwise – went to work and never came home again.
For further information on the JPMF, please visit www.jpmf.ca.
Review copies of A Widow’s Awakening are available upon request. All proceeds from the sale of the book through the JPMF go to the Memorial Fund.
*Source: US Bureau of Labour Statistics and Association of Worker’s Compensation Boards of Canada
**Source: National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund
***Source: National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund
To book a media interview with Maryanne Pope, please contact:Sarah Hourihan Media Relations, Pink Gazelle Productions Inc firstname.lastname@example.org
(403) 620-5440 - or - Ian Wilson Managing Director, John Petropoulos Memorial Fund email@example.com (403) 891-4269