Workers Memorial Day: Events Around the Globe Commemorate Workers, Stress Need for Safety

In observance of Workers' Memorial Day on April 28, cities across the country and around the world are holding events to honor workers who became injured or lost their lives while on the job.

In Los Angeles, the Southern California Collation for Occupational Safety and Health (SoCalOSH), UCLA-LOSH and WORKSAFE will hold a public funeral procession through the city to honor fallen workers. More than 30 automobiles will take part in the procession and display banners with information on work-related injuries and fatalities. The event also aims to raise public awareness, demand stronger safety and health enforcement for workers and call for stricter legislative action.

In Silver Spring, Md., the National Labor College (NCL) will host a groundbreaking on a national memorial honoring fallen workers. According to NCL, when the memorial is completed, it will be comprised of thousands of bricks, each engraved with the name, date of death and union/occupation of a worker who died on the job.

In Burlington, Vt., Mayor Bob Kiss will host a press conference with the Vermont Workers’ Center (VWC), where family members and individuals who were impacted by an on-the-job death, injury or illness will speak. Union representatives, the state Department of Labor and others will join VWC at this event.

International Cities Honor Workers

Workers' Memorial Day, often known as World Day for Safety and Health at Work outside of the United States, also is honored on an international scale. This year, the Geneva, Switzerland-based International Labour Organization (ILO) observed the day by issuing a new report for managing workplace risks and reducing injuries and illnesses.

The document, titled "My Life, My Work, My Safe Work: Managing Risk in the Work Environment," lists risk management techniques and actions to control risks.

"Millions of work-related accidents, injury, and disease annually take their toll on human lives, businesses, the economy, and the environment," said ILO Director-General Juan Somavia. "We know that by assessing risks and hazards, combating them at source and promoting a culture of prevention, we can significantly reduce workplace illness and injuries."

According to ILO, 2.2 million people worldwide die from work-related accidents and diseases every year, and work-related deaths appear to be on the rise. An estimated 270 million people annually suffer non-fatal, work-related accidents resulting in at least three days absence from work, and an additional 160 million people are inflicted with work-related illnesses.

To raise awareness and recognize workers, numerous events and activities are planned around the world to mark Workers’ Memorial Day. A street campaign in Moscow will highlight occupational safety and health, along with the first congress of occupational safety and health specialists. Furthermore, a workplace safety and health training workshop has been organized in Indonesia, and a conference in the Philippines will push for the ratification of ILO Convention 187 on a Promotional Framework for Occupational Safety and Health. And in Bangkok, the photo exhibition titled “Celebrating Working Lives: Decent Work, Better Tomorrow” will be presented to highlight worker safety issues.

ILO will take part in an international book fair in Buenos Aires to promote the importance of health and safety in the world of work, and also will participate in Mexico’s premier health and occupational safety exhibition. In Africa, tripartite events will take place, such as renowned local artists performing in Ethiopia to illustrate work safety issues.

Foulke: OSHA “Successful” in Improving Workplace Safety

OSHA Administrator Edwin Foulke issued a statement in recognition of Workers' Memorial Day, emphasizing that the agency has been successful in “improving workplace safety and health over the past 37 years.”

“The injury and illness incidence rate of 4.4 per 100 employees in 2006 was the lowest that the Bureau of Labor Statistics has ever recorded,” Foulke said. “OSHA will continue to work diligently to focus its resources where they will have the most impact in assuring that every working man and woman returns home safe to their families every day.”

A recent report released by the AFL-CIO, however, contradicts OSHA's claims and emphasizes the need for the agency to do more. It urged OSHA to step up its enforcement and increase its penalty structure, as the report found that the average national total penalty in fatality investigations was only $10,133.

Revised figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics point out that there were 5,840 fatal work injuries in the United States in 2006, an increase of 106 deaths from 2005's workplace fatality count of 5,734.

For more on the AFL-CIO Death on the Job Report and the latest workplace fatality figures from BLS, read AFL-CIO Report: Workplaces Not as Safe as OSHA Claims and Revised BLS 2006 Stats Point to Rise, Not Decrease, in Workplace Deaths.

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