This April 28 marks the 24th Workers Memorial Day, and around the country workers, workplace safety activists, community and faith leaders will honor the men and women killed on the job and renew their commitment to the continuing campaign for strong job safety laws and tough enforcement of those laws.
The theme this year is “Safe Jobs, Save Lives. Make Your Voice Heard.” You can prepare for Workers Memorial Day with fact sheets in English and Spanish, posters and other materials available here. Also local unions, central labor councils and other labor groups soon will be adding their events to our Local Action calendar. Be sure to keep an eye on that.
The AFL-CIO’s 2013 Death on the Job report will be released in conjunction with Workers Memorial Day. (Download last year’s 2012 Death on the Job report.)
While there have been major improvements in the workplace safety rules and significant reduction in fatalities, injuries and illness on the job since the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) began operations and the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) went into effect April 28, 1971, much still needs to be done.
In 2010, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 4,690 workers were killed on the job—an average of 13 workers every day—and an estimated 50,000 died from occupational diseases. Workers suffer an additional 7.6 million to 11.4 million job injuries and illnesses each year. The cost of job injuries and illnesses is enormous—estimated at $250 billion to $300 billion a year.
Many job hazards are unregulated and uncontrolled. Some employers cut corners and violate the law, putting workers in serious danger and costing lives. Workers who report job hazards or job injuries are fired or disciplined. Employers contract out dangerous work to try to avoid responsibility. As a result, each year thousands of workers are killed and millions more get injured or contract diseases because of their jobs.
The Obama administration has moved forward to strengthen protections with tougher enforcement and a focus on workers’ rights. But much-needed safeguards on silica and other workplace hazards have stalled in the face of fierce attacks by business groups and the Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives who want to stop new protections.