Workers Memorial Day 2004

April 28, 2004
April 28 is Workers Memorial Day, the day workers, unions and employers pay tribute to workers who lost their lives while on the job.

OSHA Adminstrator John Henshaw releashed a statement saying, "We mourn with their families and friends, and we recognize that the loss of these very special people extends beyond the home; the loss is felt in schools, places of worship, at social gatherings, in local communities, and throughout the entire nation."

He went on to explain the day was created to take time and cherish the memory of workers who died on the job.

"We believe that we pay tribute to them most by working even harder to prevent more deaths on the job. We're making progress; in its most recent data, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that workplace fatality rates in almost all categories were down in 2002. In very basic terms that means that over 400 more mothers, fathers, sons and daughters returned home safely from their workplaces than did the year before."

He said OSHA's efforts must always focus on improving safety and health on the job by reducing workplace hazards in order to eliminate fatalities, injuries and illnesses on the job. "The ultimate right of every worker is to return home safely," said Henshaw. "We must continue working to ensure that that happens. This is a day set aside to not only commemorate the lives of those men and women who went to work one day and didn't come home, but to also remind us that our work isn't finished."

Hundreds of events around the nation will mark the 15th annual Workers Memorial Day. The theme for this year's Worker Memorial Day is "Good Jobs, Safe Jobs, Protect Workers Now."

Each year, more than 60,000 workers die from job-related injuries or illnesses and another 4.7 million are injured, according to government statistics. This year, the AFL-CIO is taking aim at the Bush administration, claiming that since Bush took office in January 2001, the administration "has stalled, blocked and repealed needed workplace protections, including the nation's first standard covering carpal tunnel syndrome and other repetitive stress injuries."

For more information about Workers Memorial Day, you can download a fact sheet from the AFL-CIO.

The first Workers Memorial Day was observed in 1989. April 28 was chosen because it is the anniversary of OSHA and the day of a similar remembrance in Canada. Every year, people in hundreds of communities and at worksites recognize workers who have been killed or injured on the job.

Since 1996, workers around the world have joined in celebrating April 28 as International Commemoration Day for Dead and Injured Workers. The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates workplace accidents kill more people each year than wars. According to a new ILO report set for release April 28, 6,000 workers a day, or more than 2 million a year die from work-related causes.

Unions of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) plan a range of actions in 90 nations to promote the themes of "Safe and Healthy Work for All" and "Employer Accountability."

ICFTU's General Secretary Guy Ryder issued a request for trade unions throughout the world to prepare for the 9th International Commemoration Day For Dead and Injured Workers. He also emphasized April 28 as a key date in the run up to the Global Unions' May 1st mobilization, which will focus on "respect" as an overriding theme, with a particular focus on workers' rights and women workers. Ryder said that thematically, the 28 ceremonies or events throughout the world should begin by commemorating the dead, sick and injured workers and end with a message of hope for life and the living.

April 28 became an international day of mourning in 1996 when a global union delegation lit a commemoration candle and incense at the United Nations in New York to highlight the plight of workers who die, are injured or become ill due to unsustainable forms of work and production. The occasion was a special "Day of the Workplace" organized by the ICFTU with the U.N. Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD). April 28 is now formally recognized by governments in 10 countries or territories.

About the Author

Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith is the former content director of EHS Today, and is currently the EHSQ content & community lead at Intelex Technologies Inc. She has written about occupational safety and health and environmental issues since 1990.

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