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Workers Memorial Day: OSHA to host ceremony; AFL-CIO releases report

Photo: United States Department of Labor

Washington — OSHA and the Mine Safety and Health Administration have scheduled a national Workers Memorial Day ceremony for April 27 at the Department of Labor headquarters.

OSHA will broadcast the ceremony online at 1 p.m. Eastern. OSHA leader Doug Parker and MSHA administrator Christopher Williamson will be joined by AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler and United Support & Memorial for Workplace Fatalities Vice President Wanda Engracia, whose husband, Pablo Morillo, was among three workers killed in a 2005 workplace explosion in New Jersey. 

“Work-related injuries claim the lives of approximately 14 people each day in the United States, that's one life lost every 101 minutes,” an OSHA press release states. “Workers Memorial Day pays tribute to these people, and all the fallen workers before them, and the survivors who remain to grieve and carry on.”

A total of 5,190 workers died as a result of on-the-job injuries in 2021 – an 8.9% increase from the previous year, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data released in December. That marks the fifth time in six years that workplace deaths surpassed 5,000 on the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries.

“On Workers Memorial Day, as we remember the people whose jobs claimed their lives, we must recognize that behind these numbers, there are people who mourn each loss,” Parker said in the release. “For them, these statistics are loved ones: they’re parents, children, siblings, relatives, friends or co-workers.

“On this day of remembrance, we should reflect on what might have prevented their loss and recommit ourselves to doing all we can — and all that can be done — to safeguard workers and to fulfill our moral obligation and duty as a nation to protect America’s workers.”

OSHA’s website features information on local Workers Memorial Day events, many of which are scheduled for May 28, as well as a list of names of people who’ve lost their lives on the job. 

‘Death on the Job’ report

The AFL-CIO on April 26 released its 32nd annual Death on the Job report, which shows that Black and Latino workers are particularly vulnerable.

In 2021, the fatality rate for Black workers rose to 4.0 per 100,000 employees – up from 3.5 in 2020.

“This is now the third year in a row the fatality rate for Black workers is greater than the overall job fatality rate (3.6 per 100,000 workers) and the highest rate in more than a decade,” the report states.

Latino workers had the highest fatality rate, at 4.5 deaths per 100,000 employees, which has increased 13% in the past decade.

“Every American should be alarmed and outraged by the tragic data unearthed in this report,” Shuler said in a press release. “It is unconscionable that in the wealthiest nation in the world, Black and Latino workers are facing the highest on-the-job fatality rates in nearly two decades. This report is more than a wake-up call, it is a call to action. No one should have to risk their lives for their livelihoods. There is no corporate cost-benefit analysis that should put human life and worker safety on the wrong side of the ledger.

“This report isn’t just about data points, it is about people. Every worker who died on the job represents another empty seat at a family’s kitchen table.”

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