In 1989, April 28th was designated Workers Memorial Day to direct attention to workers who have been killed or injured on the job.   This day was chosen because it is the anniversary of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA). The first Workers Memorial Day was observed in Canada also on April 28th.


The goal of Workers Memorial Day is to remember those who have suffered and died on the job.   As we remember those who have died in workplace catastrophes, suffered diseases due to exposure to toxic substances or been injured because of dangerous conditions, it is also an opportunity to reflect on the need to revitalize our commitment to improving health and safety in the workplace.


For this reason, the day has special significance to those who are dedicated to addressing occupational health and safety issues.   Despite the difficulties and challenges we face in realizing the goal of reducing and eliminating workplace hazards, we must remain ever vigilant.   Since the passage of OSHA, the number of worker deaths per year has been reduced from approximately 14,000 in 1970 to 4,609 in 2018.  This is a significant achievement in a workforce that has doubled in size.


However, too many workers remain at risk.   Fatal work injuries were higher for workers 20 to 24 years of age, rising to 288 in 2017 from 245 in 2016, an increase of 18 percent.   Construction accounted for the second most fatal work injuries of any industry sector with fatal falls taking the lives of 666 workers.   In 2017, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, violence in the workplace resulted in 458 homicides.


That is why workers, employers, unions, community leaders, city council, state legislative representatives and others commemorate and publicize this important day.   Past efforts have demonstrated that worker safety and health is directly linked to the existence and effectiveness of a safety and health program in a workplace.   Join Welty in reflecting on the successes in addressing workplace hazards as well as the challenges that we face ahead. Together, we can keep making progress and continue the dream that one day events like this will be a distant memory — that one day every preventable worker death will be prevented.

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