Death of an unsung hero

He didn’t get front-page news coverage.  No 21-gun salute or public eulogy.  Just another construction worker dead and buried, already forgotten by the city and public he served daily.

For the wife and daughter he left behind, Hilit Mutlu was much more than an immigrant worker toiling daily to build a new instructional facility for University of Toronto Scarborough Campus students.  He was a father and husband, a provider and a hero.

For this city that relies so heavily on the constant work done by construction workers, Mutlu is just another statistic.  He is the seventh worker to be killed by a fall in the past seven weeks.

This is not a new trend; workers have been being killed disproportionately by falls for many years now.  The city claims to be aggressively working towards construction safety, yet the rate of construction worker deaths has not improved since 1998.

Construction workers put their lives at risk everyday to build and maintain our city.  Their work is severely unappreciated, and instead of thanks they get noise complaints and angry drivers yelling at traffic slow-ups.

When they die in the line of the duty, they are lucky to get a single-column story in the paper.  Meanwhile, when police officers or firefighters are killed they are given a front-page spread and the entire city seems to rise up in arms.

While it is a difficult comparison to make, there is no doubting the danger or importance of construction work in the city.  They keep our buildings standing and roads usable, indirectly saving the lives of people all throughout the city.

While they may not run into burning buildings to save lives, it is easy to forget the blood, sweat and tears that workers put into making these buildings.  Or the injuries and lives lost along the way.

Often portrayed as a dirty, lower class job, it’s about time construction workers got some respect and admiration.

As the winter closes and the warm weather brings many more workers out of their winter layoff, take a closer look at the bright-vested men and women labouring away at the side of the road.  They are real people with families too, not to be so easily forgotten.