The annual commemoration of workers who lost their lives on the job brought numerous events around the country—and a display of pride and hope in the work of OSHA and other federal regulators who prevent such tragedies.
The Occupational Safety and Health Act became law in 1970, leading to the creation of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and an era of much higher levels of workplace safety than ever before.
Workplace dangers endure. But with vast, and documented, improvements in safety brought about by the act, many workers and communities mark a day to honor the half-century of betterment as Workers Memorial Day.
“On April 28, OSHA and the nation annually recognize Workers Memorial Day,” the Department of Labor announced. “The day honors those who lost their lives on the job, and recognizes the impact these tragic losses have on families, co-workers and communities. It also affirms OSHA's commitment to worker safety and health.”
Various federal employee unions and organizations also commemorate the day—for example, the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) as well as the American Postal Workers Union (APWU), one of the country’s largest unions and certainly one whose members face considerable work hazards that need ongoing mitigation.
“Workers Memorial Day marks the anniversary of the passage of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), which went into effect 50 years ago,” Mark Dimondstein, president of APWU, noted in a release. “It is a day to remember workers killed or injured at work and to redouble our fight to secure safe workplaces for all.”
“This year’s Workers Memorial Day takes on special significance after two years of working through this terrible pandemic that has deeply affected all of us,” Dimondstein added. The union leader also requested that all postal workers “identify safety issues” on the job and at their local facilities. The union has posted links on its site for easy reporting of dangers, large and small, to help put right the safety problems.
“As we think of those we have needlessly lost and who have suffered from COVID-19, let’s also recommit ourselves to organizing for safe workplaces. The best way to make changes at work is by joining together and demanding management provide a safe work environment for all employees,” he added.
Other major labor organizations also spoke out on the occasion.
“On April 28, the labor movement will once again observe Workers Memorial Day to remember workers killed or injured on the job and to renew the fight for strong safety and health protections,” the AFL-CIO said on its website, which also listed scores of events where union members, workers of all stripes and communities are commemorating the day.
That union’s website also posted a copy of a new and wide-ranging research report detailing the ongoing toll of workplace deaths and injuries. The report also notes very real progress—and that the OSH Act has saved nearly 650,000 workers’ lives over these past decades. Such claims are further reflected and broken down in detail, by reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics among other sources.
“No worker should risk avoidable injury, illness, or even death in the course of doing their job,” President Biden said in a statement. “Ensuring worker safety is a national priority and a moral imperative. On this Workers Memorial Day, we honor and remember those who lost their lives on the job and reaffirm every worker’s basic right to a safe and healthy workplace.”
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