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Press release: Workers Memorial Day Events Around the Country Honor the Memory of Workers Killed on the Job

April 28, 2011 (WASHINGTON, D.C.) – The families and friends of Americans killed at work will unite tomorrow to remember those who have fallen and recommit themselves to strengthening protections for those who are still on the job as communities around the country commemorate Workers Memorial Day.
 
“This is a day of remembrance,” Tom O’Connor, the Executive Director of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, said, “but that does not mean that we are looking backward. On the contrary, we are focused firmly on the future, knowing that we can – and must – do better as a nation to protect the health and welfare of the American workers who represent the backbone of our economy.”
 
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the effective date of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, which was signed into law by then-President Richard Nixon. The Act created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to set and enforce workplace safety standards.
 
Since the agency’s creation, the lives of more than 430,000 workers have been saved and the on-the-job fatality rate has been cut by nearly 82 percent, according to statistics compiled by the National Safety Council and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
 
O’Connor noted, though, that many workers remain in serious danger and that OSHA is one of the few – if not the only – federal agency that has not been seriously retooled in an effort to keep pace with changing workplace conditions.
 
“We had some very high profile, very deadly workplace disasters in 2010,” O’Connor said. “The Upper Big Branch explosion at the Massey-owned mine killed 29 miners and the Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf of Mexico killed 11 workers and triggered one of the worst environmental disasters this nation has ever seen yet Congress has done nothing to ensure that disasters of this magnitude do not occur again. More importantly, literally thousands of workers died last year on the job in accidents that you never heard about because they never made the headlines.”
 
It is time, O’Connor said, for Congress to set aside political differences and come together in support of legislation that will strengthen OSHA and improve the lives of American workers.
 
Specifically, O’Connor called for:
 
·         Stronger penalties for employers who continually disregard the health and welfare of their workers in favor of the bottom line.
·         Beefed up whistleblower protections, so that workers who know about hazardous conditions on the job will know that they can speak up without fear of losing their jobs.
·         Extending OSHA protections to the millions of workers who currently are not covered by the law.
 
“The Occupational Safety and Health Act is significantly out of date,” O’Connor said, “and OSHA is doing its best to police a 21st-century workplace with 20th-century tools, but it is hopelessly overmatched. If we have learned anything from the deaths of the people we are remembering today, it is this: American workers should not have to risk their lives to earn a living.”
 
To see a complete list of Workers Memorial Day events taking place around the nation, click here: http://weeklytoll.blogspot.com/p/workers-memorial-day-2011.html.
 
The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health is a federation of local and statewide organizations; a private, non-profit coalition of labor unions, health and technical professionals, and others interested in promoting and advocating for worker health and safety. 
 
To learn more about the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, go to: http://www.coshnetwork.org/.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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