Today (April 28th), the unions of the AFL-CIO observe Workers Memorial Day to remember those who have suffered and died on the job and to renew our efforts for safe workplaces.
This year, the struggle continues to create good jobs in this country that are safe and healthy and to ensure the freedom of workers to form unions and, through their unions, to speak out and bargain for respect and a better future. It is time for our country to fulfill the promise of safe jobs for all.
Four decades ago, Congress passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act, promising every worker the right to a safe job. Unions and our allies have fought hard to make that promise a reality—winning protections that have made jobs safer, saved hundreds of thousands of lives and prevented millions of workplace injuries and illnesses.
But our work is not done. 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 injured or diseased because of their jobs.
The Obama administration has moved forward to strengthen protections with tougher enforcement and a focus on workers’ rights. Much-needed safeguards on combustible dust and silica, as well as other workplace hazards, stalled for several years due to fierce business and Republican opposition, have finally started to move forward.
We must redouble our efforts to make sure these safeguards are finalized and put in place.
Job Fatalities, Injuries and Illnesses
More than 472,000 workers now can say their lives have been saved since the passage of the OSH Act in 1970. Unfortunately, too many workers remain at risk. On average, 13 workers were fatally injured and more than 10,431 workers in private industry and state and local government were injured or made ill each day of 2011. These statistics do not include deaths from occupational diseases, which claim the lives of an estimated 50,000 workers each year.