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Workers Memorial Day: Honor the Dead with a Fight for Safe Jobs

Photo by Sara Wallenfang

In hundreds of Workers Memorial Day ceremonies across the country, working families are honoring workers who have died or been hurt on the job and are carrying on the fight for safe workplaces. April 28 is the official Workers Memorial Day, but events are taking place today and over the next few days. Click here to find an event near you.

In 2010 (the latest available figures), 4,500 workers lost their lives on the job—12 men and women each day who went to work and didn’t come home. David Michaels, director of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), calls that “intolerable” and says: 

Making a living shouldn’t include dying.

Click here to hear more from Michaels. 

Four decades ago, Congress passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act and since then there have been great strides in making the nation’s workplaces safer. During the past few years, the Obama administration has strengthened job safety and health laws and cracked down on serious violators. But, says AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka:

It is horrifying that too many companies are willing to cut corners and sacrifice working Americans’ safety for the sake of increased profits. And that too many politicians are unwilling to support strong enforceable safety and health rules like the OSHA silica rule currently languishing. It’s a disgrace and a dishonor to the millions who have perished, been disabled or made ill while working hard to provide for their families and to serve our communities.    

In conjunction with Workers Memorial Day, OSHA yesterday announced a new campaign to prevent deadly falls in the construction industry. In 2010, more than 10,000 construction workers were hurt in falls and 255 were killed. Falls are the most fatal hazard in the construction industry. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis says:

The best way to honor Workers Memorial Day is to make sure that another family does not have to suffer the pain of losing a loved one because of preventable workplace injuries.

The fall prevention effort is a joint campaign by OSHA, the CPWR—Center for Construction Research and Training and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). CPWR Executive Director Pete Stafford says:

Our industry has lost far too many people to fatal falls. Losing any worker to a preventable fall is simply unacceptable.

Find out more here and here.

Yesterday in Lansing, Mich., (see photo) workers—led by a color guard from Fire Fighters (IAFF) Local 421—gathered near the state Capitol to demand stronger workplace safety laws.  

In Hookset, N.H., last night, at a Workers Memorial Day dinner with union members, workplace safety advocates and federal and state job safety officials, New Hampshire AFL-CIO President Mark MacKenzie said:

We will never know how many workers will make the ultimate sacrifice in any given year, but there's one thing we do know—and that's that we can do better.

Missouri Workers' Memorial Day

Missouri workers who were killed on the job were honored (see video) in ceremonies in the Capitol rotunda in Jefferson City.

On Wednesday, May 2, the AFL-CIO will release its annual “Death on the Job” report on the state of safety for the nation’s workers. It will include a state-by-state look at job deaths and injuries, a demographic breakdown of workers killed and hurt on the job, an in-depth look at job safety enforcement and more.

Click here to find a Workers Memorial Day event near you and here to learn more about job safety.

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