April 28th is Workers’ Memorial Day – a time to shine a spotlight on the importance of safe work environments across the globe. Also known around the world as International Workers' Memorial Day, International Commemoration Day for Dead and Injured, and Day of Mourning, it’s a day to remember those who have suffered life-changing or life-ending workplace accidents. In their honor, organizations and employers come together to promote ongoing safety efforts. It’s never too late to educate yourself on the dangers facing workers in your industry, from the equipment and products they use to the environments they occupy. Turn your attention to what you can do to help employees stay safe and healthy.
Safe Jobs: Every Worker’s Right
In spite of safety awareness and measures increasing around the world year after year, many job hazards remain unregulated and uncontrolled. And, even with the best precautions, accidents still occur due to the hazardous nature of certain industries. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) most recent census report on fatal occupational injuries notes that there were 5,190 workplace deaths in 2021, up 8.9 percent from 2020 – unfortunately breaking the dip in fatalities we were able to record from 2019 to 2020, this comes in as the highest annual rate since 2016. This means a worker died every 101 minutes from a work-related injury in 2021. In addition to that, there were 2.6 million non-fatal workplace injuries in 2021, which is down from 2.7 million in 2020, and while that is good news, its mainly the amount of workplace illness cases is responsible for drop, as we have transitioned away from the COVID-19 pandemic over the years.
Industrial workers, especially those in the construction industry, are among the employees at greatest risk of incurring harm while at work. According to the BLS, fatalities in the transportation and construction occupations accounted for nearly half of all fatal injuries at 38.2 percent. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) identifies four fatal incidents that are too common on construction sites: struck by object, electrocution, caught in equipment and falls – with the latter being the most prevalent. Those in industrial factories may also be at risk of chemical exposure, burns, or explosions.
Though these threats are certainly among the most serious, every professional field should be vigilant in reducing the risk of injury and illness, such as taking steps to prevent slips, trips and falls in the workplace and staying on top of fire prevention and safety protocols.
The Right of Workers to Seek Safety and Health
Workers’ Memorial Day has been observed for over 50 years, with its first recognition in 1970. It was born out of two decades of dedicated awareness to workplace safety throughout the world. Labor unions sought to make a difference by working together.
In 1955, the American Federation Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) was established. The AFL-CIO included international efforts to make the health and safety of employees a distinct priority. Its efforts led to the founding of OSHA and the dedication of Workers’ Memorial Day. Today, the AFL-CIO continues its stand against poor worker conditions and treatment.
Ways to Commemorate Workers’ Memorial Day
For employers and coworkers who have lost others to preventable workplace accidents, April 28 th is an opportunity to remember them. Telling their stories illuminates mistakes that could have been avoided, and it encourages employees to report any hazards they may see.
Some workplaces may develop training seminars that are dedicated specifically to safe practices, including machine safety, hazard awareness and personal protective equipment.
The ultimate goal of Workers’ Memorial Day is to alert the public to the prevalence of workplace injury and death, with the hope of improving conditions and exercising greater caution. No one should have to go to work with the worry that they may not come home.
The Continued Need for Improved Workplace Safety
Although honoring those who have passed is important, there are many employees who still need help, as illustrated by these findings from the BLS:
- Installation, maintenance, and repair occupations had 475 fatalities in 2021, an increase of 20.9 percent. Almost one-third of these deaths (152) were to vehicle and mobile equipment mechanics, installers, and repairers.
- Exposure to harmful substances or environments led to 798 worker fatalities in 2021, the highest figure since 2011. This major event category experienced the largest increase in fatalities in 2021, increasing 18.8 percent from 2020.
- Work related fatalities due to falls, slips, and trips increased 5.6 percent in 2021, from 805 fatalities in 2020 to 850 in 2021.
- Women made up 8.6 percent of all workplace fatalities but represented 14.5 percent of intentional injuries by a person in 2021.
How Public Safety Regulations Protect Workers
OSHA was established shortly after the establishment of Workers’ Memorial Day. Among its responsibilities of public safety, OSHA also devotes special attention to the development of workplace safety regulations. Standards set by this organization are enforceable by law, requiring employers to meet minimal requirements to be up to code.
OSHA provides compliance assistance specialists to help employers maintain the most optimum working conditions. These specialists arrange seminars and training events, using their knowledge to educate both employees and their staff. Compliance specialists also conduct inspections when probable cause of violation has been detected.
Steps to Increase Safety – On Machinery and Worksites
Awareness is only effective if it produces change. Regular safety inspections can reveal potential risks, while proper design, hazard assessment, and maintenance of equipment can prevent malfunction or defect. You should always review how your staff is interacting with products and tools to make sure unnecessary risks aren’t emerging. Employers can also make a difference by encouraging staff to consistently notify someone if something doesn’t seem safe.
It’s the responsibility of the employer to create a foundation of safety, but it’s equally important that employees are empowered to follow through with smart, safe practices. While they may seem like a last line of defense, safety labels, signs and tags should not be an afterthought on your products and in your workplace. They’re an integral part of product liability and safety and one of the most visible elements of your workplace safety management system.
As you celebrate Workers’ Memorial Day, let Clarion Safety help you improve the safety of your machinery and work environment. Here are a few next steps you can take:
- Read our tips on preventing injuries in the workplace or our expertise on improving your product warning labels.
- Explore our risk assessment services for safer products and machinery, for both machine builders and user alike
- Browse our ANSI/ISO/OSHA compliant label, sign and tag products, including easy, online safety customization options.
Have questions about your warnings or identification needs? Reach out to our team today!
This blog was originally posted on 4/26/19 and has been updated with new information throughout.