Today is Workers Memorial Day. On Jan. 15, 2022, Craig Ward lost his balance as he adjusted a pallet on a racking system in a larger freezer, suffering fatal head injuries when the 49-year-old worker landed on a concrete floor at a food manufacturing company in Oak Creek.
Sadly, his death is an all-too-common occurrence in the U.S. Craig Ward was one of 29 Wisconsin worker fatalities investigated by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration in fiscal year 2022.
In 2021, 5,190 workers died on the job in the U.S., including 105 in Wisconsin. Each 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: their parents, children, siblings, relatives, friends, or co-workers.
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. Workers Memorial Day is a time to honor not only those lost, but their loved ones, too.
Workers Memorial Day
To pay tribute to those whose jobs claimed their lives, April 28 is Workers Memorial Day. An opportunity for us to pause and join those families, friends, and co-workers to recall those who suffered work-related injuries and illnesses. The remembrance also recognizes the grief that their survivors face in the days, months, and years after.
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, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the annual commemoration of Workers Memorial Day 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 do, 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.
On Workers Memorial Day 2023, let’s remember Craig and all those who didn’t return home after work and commit ourselves to making sure that no one is forced to trade their life for a paycheck.
Christine Zortman is the Area Director for the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration in Milwaukee.
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