Remembering Workplace Safety

Maria E. Gutierrez |

In the U.S., the rate of fatal work injuries has not decreased for the last three years, even though employers are required by law to provide a workplace free of known hazards. This week, we remember all those workers killed or injured in the workplace. 

 We will remember fallen workers like:

  • Two 14-year-old girls were electrocuted in a field by a pivot irrigator in Tampico, Ill.
  • Two brothers, 16 and 22, died from exposure to fumes in a confined space while working at a compost center in Lamont, Calif.
  • In Illinois, two teenage boys, 14 and 19, suffocated when trapped 30 feet deep in corn; the teens were “walking down the corn” to make it flow while the machine was running.
  • In Oklahoma, two 17-year-olds suffered leg amputations after they became caught in an inadequately guarded grain conveyor while cleaning out a grain storage structure.

This week, we will do as Mary Harris “Mother” Jones said, “pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living.”

Construction, transportation, warehousing, agriculture, forestry are some of the most dangerous industries. Most of the occupational fatalities are preventable due to:

  • An employer’s negligence to establish effective controls
  • Lack of proper training on how to perform the job
  • Safe use of tools and equipment, and on health and safety; long working hours
  • Employment of teenagers under 18 to perform hazardous jobs.

HS trainingInterfaith Worker Justice offers OSHA funded workplace health and safety trainings during the year. Workers from around the country can know their workplace rights and train their coworkers.

The path to safer workplaces includes new regulations, stricter enforcement of existing regulations, and employers and employees training among other actions. 

Saturday, April 28, is International Workers Memorial Day, and unions, worker justice organizations, activists, religious groups and worker centers are organizing and participating in actions to continue the fight for safe workplaces. Join IWJ affiliates and allies this week!

Maria E. Gutierrez is Interfaith Worker Justice’s national Health and Safety Coordinator. She coordinates and leads IWJ’s OSHA funded workplace safety trainings. Contact Maria for information regarding IWJ's next health and safety training.