Workers’ Memorial Day, observed on April 28, is also the anniversary of the signing of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, (OSHA), over 4 decades ago, and has been designated as the time to remember fallen workers and surviving families, as well as to emphasize the promise of safe jobs. 

The signing of OSHA was the committment of the right to a safe workplace.  Despite this promise, and the dedication and efforts of both workers and enlightened employers, 12 workers die on-the-job every day in the United States. In fact, a total of 150 U.S. workers die each day, (more than 50, 000 workers each year) as a result of exposure to health and safety hazards on the job. 

Over the next several days there will be thousands of people participating in Workers’ Memorial Day observances throughout the U.S. in remembrance of fallen co-workers, friends, and family as they renew their commitment to making their workplaces safer. Members of the public and the survivors of victims of workplace injuries and death have been invited to attend and participate in observances, which include the reading of names of deceased and injured workers, memorial bells, candlelight vigils, and other memorial services. 

It’s a fact that safety laws and regulations don’t kill jobs – but unsafe jobs do kill workers. Our elected officials should be making sure that all workers are protected, by keeping safety standards and regulations up to date and enforced. They should also be strengthening the voice of workers to advocate on their own behalf for safer jobs, not attacking their rights to advocate effectively for themselves, their families, and all workers. 

The Whistleblower Act was written to protect workers from reporting unsafe working conditions, without repercussion. They have the right to tell their employer of any risks and hazards of their jobs that could be life-threatening, without repercussion. After a company investigation, those workers have the right to protection against discrimination, such as: reduction of pay/hours; prospect of promotion; making threats; blacklisting; demotion; denial of benefits, intimidation; fail to hire/rehire. 

Companies are required to meet all safety standards as set by OSHA. When accidents happen and there are injuries and/or casualties, OSHA will investigate. Depending on their findings, companies may have to pay large penalties for failure to comply with such standards, as well as benefits to the worker’s family. 

This Workers’ Memorial Day, the soldiers at Ft Hood, Texas, should be remembered. Although a service was held for them, they need special thoughts this day.  They were doing their job when shot by a fellow soldier. Investigations are being conducted until a cause for this tragedy is found. Remember those and any others you know or family members of someone who lost their life because of their job. 

Every worker has the right to know they will be safe at their job, and get to return home at the end of their shift.