Families of Lost Workers Demand Family Bill of Rights

Family members of those who perished as a result of workplace-related illnesses and injuries are demanding that they receive fundamental rights that make them active participants during accident investigations and other processes related to examining their loved ones’ deaths.

Claiming that entities such as companies and the government receive special rights that should be granted to workplace victims’ family members, a group of widows, parents, children and other family members are campaigning to have a “Family Bill of Rights” incorporated as a legislative measure.

“No one can bring back those we’ve lost, but if we can help other family members in similar situations, it makes our pain a little less,” said Tammy Miser of Lexington, Ky., who lost her brother, Shawn Boone, 33, in an explosion at the Hayes Lemmerz plant in Huntington, Ind., in October 2003. “When a worker is killed on the job, the system gives special rights and responsibilities to the company and the government, but family members are left completely out of the equation.”

Miser founded United Support and Memorial for Workplace Fatalities (USMWF) after her brother’s death, and the organization’s members drafted the bill.

“The world of OSHA and workers’ compensation were completely foreign to us until my Dad died on the job,” said Melissa King of Malden, Mass. “Now we know first-hand how difficult it is for family members to obtain basic information about workplace incidents.” Melissa King’s father, Paul King, 50, was electrocuted while working at Boston’s Logan airport.

Through USMWF and the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (formerly National COSH Network) family members are building a network of support to assist anyone touched by work-related fatalities, injuries or illnesses. The “Family Bill of Rights” evolved after sharing their grief as well as their traumatic experiences dealing with government agencies, workers’ compensation officials and attorneys.

The “Family Bill of Rights” outlines 10 rights that, according to USMWF, should be afforded to those left behind when a worker dies on the job. Some of the rights in the bill include:

  • Providing family members with information on the role of federal, state and other officials in investigating the death;
  • Notifying family members of all meetings, hearings and other communication between investigators and the employer (or the employer’s representative), and allowing a family member the opportunity to participate in such events;
  • Allowing family members the right to view all physical evidence gathered as part of the accident investigation, and ensuring that the evidence is secured from employer tampering; and
  • Involving family members in the investigation process, such as allowing family members the opportunity to offer names of individuals who may have useful evidence for the investigators.

The “Family Bill of Rights” can be viewed at www.usmwf.org/family_packet.htm.

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