Another Workers' Memorial Day Observed

Immediately following the West, Texas explosion that claimed 12 emergency responders and the Bangladesh garment factory collapse, which killed at least 348 workers, the event is marked around the world.

The Labor Department, AIHA, NIOSH, and many other safety & health organizations around the world observed another Workers' Memorial Day on April 28, remembering workers who had died from occupational injuries or illnesses during the previous year.

Acting U.S. Secretary of Labor Set Harris is joining OSHA Assistant Secretary Dr. David Michaels; Joe Main, assistant secretary for mine safety and health; and family members of workers who died in the past year at an April 29 Workers' Memorial Day ceremony at 10:30 a.m. in Washington, D.C. The gathering will include a panel discussion on the importance of safety and health protections for contingent and temporary workers.

Two recent, highly publicized events may have made workplace hazards more apparent to the general public: The West, Texas fertilizer plant explosion claimed the lives of 12 emergency responders and two other individuals; half a world away, the Bangladesh garment factory collapse killed at least 348 workers. Violent protests followed the collapse, and Bangladeshi authorities announced they had arrested five people in connection with it, The Associated Press reported April 27.

"This day of remembrance is especially poignant as we mourn those lost in the explosion in Texas," American Industrial Hygiene Association President Allan K. Fleeger, CIH, CSP, said. "Our thoughts are with those affected by this tragedy, and we remember all workers who have suffered or died while on the job. AIHA's members and volunteers are committed to the continued improvement of worker health and safety."

NIOSH Director Dr. John Howard’s message for the day noted the number of work-related deaths in the United States has fallen by some 80 percent during the past century. "In 2013, occupational safety and health professionals strive to continue that progress," he added. "It is important to recognize that progress is only a relative term as long as anyone faces a risk to life or well-being at work. We must eliminate for good the legacy hazards of the 20th Century. We must also embrace a new 21st Century paradigm in which worker health and safety are fully incorporated into the design, start-up, and lifespan of new businesses, industries, structures, work processes, and technologies.

"Falls are a basic cause of serious injury and death at work, and they continue to impose human and economic costs on the construction industry. Financial experts agree that a robust construction industry is a key ingredient for sustained economic recovery and growth. A robust industry must be free of injuries that impair and kill workers. On April 28, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and its diverse partners will re-launch their national information and media campaign to prevent falls, fall-related injuries, and fall-related deaths in construction.

"As the market for nanotechnology expands, scientists and engineers have a historic opportunity to design prudent exposure-control measures into the processes by which carbon nanotubes and other nanomaterials are manufactured and incorporated into final products. NIOSH's Current Intelligence Bulletin on carbon nanotubes and carbon nanofibers, issued this week, provides model recommendations that will support the safe growth of nanotechnology as scientists continue complex research to fully understand its occupational safety and health implications. In this way, we advance beyond the 20th Century practice of introducing new materials into the workplace and only later, as an afterthought, considering questions of worker risk."

April 28 is the anniversary of the establishment of OSHA in 1971.

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