Most people recognize “Memorial Day” as a day off for lots of people, since it’s a federal holiday on the last Monday in May, established to honor those who died in the service of the United States Armed Forces. It’s also a ticker on the calendar of many of us for when summer begins, with Labor Day in September being the end of summer, calendar-wise (the weather, obviously, doesn’t always jive with these seasonal bookmarks).
However, on April 28, 2014, there will be another Memorial Day recognized around the nation — the Worker’s Memorial Day, established by the AFL-CIO to honor those men and women who have died while working on the job.
Each Year, April 28 Acknowledges Lives Lost While On the Job
The AFL-CIO is made up of several unions, it’s a national organization of workers that has done much not only to bring the dangers and safety issues facing American workers to light, but to get laws passed at both the state and federal level to help keep people safe when they are working on the job.
It’s an important task — to fight for safe workplaces in this country. Even with the passage of the Occupational Safety and Health Act many years ago and the resulting growth of federal oversight of worker safety via OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Organization), many people are seriously injured or perish while working on the job because of unsafe working conditions.
According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, in 2013, for example, 41% of all deaths on the job (fatal workplace injuries) happened in motor vehicle accidents — and more than half of these transportation accidents (58%) happened on highways. The BLS also reports that slip and fall accidents were responsible for 15% of all worksite injuries in 2012 — that’s shocking considering that slip and fall accidents are almost always preventable events.
Focus of Worker Memorial Day — Key Safety Issues Facing US Workers Today
Now, the AFL-CIO has begun once again this year to promote April 28th as Worker Memorial Day in its continuing efforts to spotlight the need for safe working conditions for all Americans. Among this year’s considerations:
- Defending safety and health protections and rights from industry attacks.
- Requiring employers to find and fix hazards and implement a work-site safety and health program, with full worker participation, to prevent injuries, illnesses and deaths.
- Winning new workplace safeguards for silica, combustible dust and infectious diseases.
- Strengthening protections for miners, including tighter standards for coal dust to protect against Black Lung.
- Prohibiting employer policies and practices that discourage reporting of workplace injuries.
- Increasing attention to the safety and health of Latino and immigrant workers who are at much greater risk of death and injury.
- Passing the Protecting America’s Workers Act to provide OSHA protection for all workers who lack protection, stronger criminal and civil penalties for companies that seriously violate job safety laws and improved anti-retaliation protections for workers who raise job safety concerns.
- Ensuring workers’ right to have a voice on the job, and to freely choose to join a union without employer interference or intimidation.
American workers deserve safe and secure working conditions – and whistleblowers who have the courage to report unsafe working conditions should feel safe to do so. The tragedy of seeing a loved one leave for work one morning, never to return, is a particularly horrible life event for any family to endure. Hopefully, this April 28’s Worker Memorial Day will help employers and companies around the country understand the need for greater worker safety in 2014 and beyond.