Workers Memorial Day Remembers Victims, Highlights Job Safety
May 3, 2012
Linemen working on high-voltage electric lines, tree trimmers working at high elevations, wiremen working in confined spaces. Supplying electricity can be a dangerous business, which is why the IBEW makes safety and health a high priority.
In 1970, Congress passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act, promising every worker the right to a safe job. Although workplace fatalities and injuries in the U.S. have significantly declined since the law took effect, in 2010, 4,500 workers lost their lives on the job and another 50,000 died from occupational diseases, says the AFL-CIO. That’s 149 workers each day.
To honor those who have lost their lives as a result of job-related illness or injury, countries around the world designate April 28 of each year Workers Memorial Day. With the slogan “Remember the dead – Fight for the living,” the day combines a tribute to those who have suffered in the past with a renewed commitment to keeping workers safe today and in the future.
Says IBEW Safety and Health Director Jim Tomaseski:
It is now as important as ever that labor take a strong stand to keep workers safe. An October 2012 report issued by the nonprofit group Public Citizen says that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has produced regulations in the past decade at a far slower rate than ever before:
“When it comes to health and safety protections for workers, there has been a regulatory drought. While OSHA was once able to develop a rule in less than a year, the process now exceeds six years on average.”
The report goes on:
The National Labor College in Silver Spring, Md. hosted a Workers Memorial Day event on Friday, April 27. The college houses the National Workers Memorial, its granite benches and engraved bricks acting as permanent reminders of the human toll caused by unsafe working conditions.
Responding to the past year’s attacks on public workers across the country, the event included a symposium focused on first responders, public employees and the health and safety of workers and their communities. Panelist Joseph McCartin, associate professor of history at Georgetown University, says:
In addition to the memorial, the campus is the home of the Center for Excellence in Health and Safety, including the college’s Rail Workers Hazmat Training program and the National Resource Center for OSHA training.
Says IBEW International President Edwin D. Hill: