President Obama has issued a proclamation declaring today, April 28, Worker’s Memorial Day in the United States, and calling “upon all Americans to participate in ceremonies and activities in memory of those killed or injured due to unsafe working conditions.” OSHA, the AFL-CIO, NIOSH and other organizations are also preparing to observe the occasion.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2014 — the latest year for which complete statistics are available — 4,821 American workers lost their lives in fatal workplace incidents. Adjusting for workforce population change, this number represents a slight uptick in the fatal work injury rate from the prior year.
United States Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez issued a statement this morning emphasizing the progress made in American worker safety, but also the need for continuous improvement.
“Every day, millions of Americans leave their homes and report to jobs that provide for their families, strengthen our communities and grow our economy,” said Secretary Perez. “Too many of them — on average, 13 workers a day — don’t make it back at the end of their shift. On Workers’ Memorial Day, we honor our fallen workers, and we renew our commitment to unwavering vigilance on workplace safety. Over the last half century, we have made great strides on occupational safety and health, most recently with the completion of a groundbreaking standard to improve protections for millions of workers exposed to respirable silica dust, which can cause death and disabling lung diseases. But, notwithstanding significant progress, more than 4,500 workers still die from preventable workplace incidents every year, with 50,000 more succumbing to work-related illnesses. [. . .] Ensuring that everyone can make it home safely after a hard day’s work – that no one has to give their life to make a living – is our unfinished business.”
OSHA also held a live event commemorating Workers’ Memorial Day featuring OSHA head Dr. David Michaels, and MSHA head Joseph Main. A recording of the event is scheduled to be available electronically on the OSHA webcast page.
The AFL-CIO is also hosting multiple Workers’ Memorial Day events across the country. In informational material related to their celebration, the AFL-CIO acknowledged some of the strides toward safety made in the past year, including the new OSHA final rule to protect workers from exposure to respirable crystalline silica. However, the same material emphasized the need to implement even greater worker protections in other areas.
To learn more about OSHA’s celebration of Workers’ Memorial Day — and to find the regional event closest to you — visit the dedicated OSHA webpage here. To learn about AFL-CIO events, visit their webpage here.