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Annual Workers Memorial Day Ceremony: April 28

Mourn for the dead

Not all Oregon families experience the safe return of their loved ones following a day at work. Oregon workers who died on the job will be honored with a ceremony Friday, April 28, at noon in Salem. The state’s Occupational Safety and Health Division (Oregon OSHA) and the Oregon AFL-CIO invite all Oregonians to attend the Workers Memorial Day observance to remember those who died on the job and to renew Oregon’s commitment to creating safe and healthy workplaces.

The event will take place at the Fallen Workers Memorial outside the Labor and Industries Building, 350 Winter St. NE, on the Capitol Mall. The memorial service, coordinated by the Oregon AFL-CIO, will feature remarks from State Rep. Barbara Smith Warner and from Elana Pirtle-Guiney, workforce and labor policy advisor to Oregon Gov. Kate Brown.

The ceremony will include the reading of the names of Oregon workers who died on the job in 2016.

“Workers Memorial Day is a time to remember the victims of workplace injury and disease, and to rededicate ourselves to improving safety and health in every American workplace,” Brown said. “By seeking stronger safety and health protection, we commit ourselves to prevent these tragedies in the future.”

“It’s important for Oregon’s legislature to be involved in observing Workers Memorial Day,” said Smith Warner. “The reading of the names is more than a symbolic gesture. It’s an affirmation that these workers are not forgotten and that we as policy makers have a responsibility to do everything we can to prevent further workplace fatalities.”

Oregon OSHA Administrator Michael Wood and Oregon AFL-CIO President Tom Chamberlain will also be among the event speakers.

While Oregon workplaces are safer today than in previous decades, there are still far too many preventable on-the-job deaths each year. In fact, 2016 saw a nearly 50 percent increase in the number of workers who died in Oregon workplaces, according to a new data collection program begun in 2015 by the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services.

“On April 28 we mourn the fallen, and fight for the living by recommitting to fight for stronger workplace safety protections,” said Chamberlain. “This year, we are reading more names of fallen workers than the year before. Each of the names we read on April 28 has family, community, friends, co-workers – people who miss them dearly. These are preventable deaths, workplace accidents. We have to do more as a state to protect working people.”

Through a partnership of labor, business, and government working together to improve workplace safety and health conditions in Oregon, the number of fatal workplace incidents eligible for workers’ compensation benefits has been cut by about 75 percent since the Oregon Safe Employment Act was enacted in 1973.

“For each of us, Workers Memorial Day serves as an important reminder that we must do better in our struggle against death in the workplace,” said Wood. “At its heart, this day is not about statistics or rates, but about individual stories, about lives cut short, about families and friends who have lost loved ones. Each year, there are far too many such stories. We can—and must—do better.”

The annual Workers Memorial Day serves as a nationwide day of remembrance. It recognizes the thousands of U.S. workers who die each year on the job and the more than one million people in the U.S. who are injured each year at work. The observance is traditionally held on April 28 because Congress passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act on that date in 1970. It is a day to honor those workers who have died on the job, to acknowledge the grievous suffering experienced by families and communities, and to recommit ourselves to the fight for safe and healthful workplaces for all workers. It is also the day OSHA was established in 1971. Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their workers. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education, and assistance.

Last year saw an increase in fatalities by 20 to a total of 61 workers. “While Oregon workplaces are safer today than in previous decades, there are still far too many preventable on-the-job deaths each year,” Michael Wood, administrator for the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration, said. “A dramatic increase such as we saw last year helps to drive that lesson home. And it certainly serves as a reminder that we must do more in our struggle against death in the workplace.”

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