Workers’Memorial Day is observed every year on April 28, when working people throughout the world remember those who were hurt or killed on the job and renew our struggle for safe workplaces. It is a day to honor those workers who have died on the job, to acknowledge the grievous suffering experienced by families and communities, and to recommit ourselves to the fight for safe and healthful workplaces for all workers.
The Occupational Safety and Health Act and Mine Safety and Health Act promise workers the right to a safe job. Unions and their 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.
It is also the day OSHA was established in 1971. Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their workers. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and providing training, education, and assistance.
A leading cause of workplace death – falls, slips and trips – increased to 818 fatalities in 2014, a 13 percent increase from 724 deaths in 2013. The hazards of working at heights are well known, as are tested and effective safety protocols to protect workers.
OSHA’s fall protection standard, however, is the most frequently violated rule in the United States; the agency issued 7,402 citations for violation of the standard in 2015.
More than 95,000 U.S. workers die each year from the illnesses caused by long-term exposure to workplace hazards, according to a 2014 estimate by leading scholars and practitioners published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene. This estimated death toll from cancer as well as heart, lung, kidney and other diseases is much higher than previous estimates.
Protecting the safety and health of temporary workers – those performing work for a host employer assigned by a staffing firm – is an increasingly hot topic. According to OSHA, research increasingly shows that temporary employees are at greater risk of workplace injury and illness than non-temps.