National View: Workers Memorial Day a reminder that more can be done to protect those on the job

From the column: "We all have a role to play in making sure our nation’s workplaces do not endanger our safety and health."

Safety team help employee accident falling scaffolding to the floor.
Friday, April 28, is Workers Memorial Day.
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In 2021, 5,190 workers died on the job in the U.S., including 80 in Minnesota, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ most recently available data. Every day, 14 people suffer work-related deaths.

These numbers remind us of the dangers many workers face. Behind these numbers, there are people who mourn each loss. For them, these statistics are loved ones: They’re parents, children, siblings, relatives, friends, or co-workers. Of these fallen Minnesotans, 73 were men and seven were women, two were new to careers at 18 or 19 years old, and nine were close to retirement at 65 years of age or older.

For those left behind, the day their loved one was lost becomes a sad remembrance. Graduations, birthdays, anniversaries, and other special times are forever tainted.

To pay tribute to those whose jobs claimed their lives, today, April 28, is Workers Memorial Day. It’s an opportunity for us to pause and join those families, friends, and co-workers in recalling those who suffered work-related injuries and illnesses. The remembrance also recognizes the grief that their survivors face in the days, months, and years afterward.

Workers Memorial Day also reminds us that more must be done to prevent workplace deaths and injuries. For those of us at the U.S. Department of Labor and, specifically, its Occupational Safety and Health Administration, this annual commemoration reinforces our commitment to developing and enforcing standards and initiatives to safeguard workers and guide employers as they work to provide safe workplaces.


Remember, we all have a role to play in making sure our nation’s workplaces do not endanger our safety and health. If you see people exposed to workplace dangers, don’t ignore your concerns. Alert the employer or contact your local OSHA office or law enforcement agency. Demand that the stores you frequent, the companies that get your business, and those you hire don’t endanger the people they employ. If they won’t, take your business to those who respect their workers’ rights to a safe and healthy workplace — and who don’t put profit ahead of the lives of the people who help them earn it.

As Mike Browne, deputy director for A Better Wisconsin Together, based in Monona, said in a statement this week, “Safety on the job should be a fundamental right. ... As we honor and remember those who have lost their lives or fallen ill or injured on the job, it’s a reminder that we all should be able to go to work each day knowing that we are safe from harm or injury or even death.”

On Workers Memorial Day 2023, let’s remember those who didn’t return home after work and commit ourselves to making sure no one is forced to trade their life for a paycheck.

Bill Donovan is the OSHA regional administrator in Chicago. The region includes Minnesota and Wisconsin, as well as Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio.

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Bill Donovan

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