Workers Memorial Day brings attention to safety challenges

Washington – To mark Workers Memorial Day on April 28, various government officials have reflected on what must be done to help create safer work environments.

More than 4,600 workers were fatally injured in 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and occupational illnesses killed an estimated 53,000 workers in 2007, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states.

“We must never accept that injury, illness, or death is the cost of doing business,” President Barack Obama said in his Workers Memorial Day 2014 proclamation.

NIOSH Director John Howard warned of both ongoing and emerging challenges in protecting workers. Falls continue to claim workers’ lives, and occupational safety and health professionals must adapt to the growing threat of large-scale disasters, he said.

In a Department of Labor blog post, OSHA administrator David Michaels wrote of the hazards that workers face from chemical exposures. Most chemicals have no permissible exposure limits, and many of the PELs that do exist are decades out of date, he said. He called on employers to use safer chemical alternatives and exposure limits to better protect workers’ health.

Workers Memorial Day is observed annually on April 28 to honor workers killed on the job.