Today is Workers Memorial Day, and around the world people are remembering those lost to occupational injuries and illnesses while re-committing to the fight for safe, healthy workplaces. Two important reports capture what’s wrong in the U.S.:
The 2019 edition of AFL-CIO’s Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect reports that in 2017, 5,147 workers lost their lives on the job as a result of traumatic injuries. That’s an average of 14 workers dying every day in this country. An additional estimated 95,000 die each year from occupational diseases.
National COSH released The Dirty Dozen 2019: Employers Who Put Workers and Communities at Risk, which spotlights 12 employers that put workers’ lives at risk. The list includes Amazon: “Six worker deaths in seven months; 13 deaths since 2013. Reports of a high incidence of suicide attempts; workers urinating in bottles and workers left without resources or income after on-the-job injuries.” The report also notes that 903 Latinx workers died on the job in 2017 — a 15% increase since 2012.
Solutions include directing adequate resources to enforcement of existing laws, and passage of new ones to address hazards for which current rules are insufficient. “We can make our workplaces safer – if we listen to workers and take action to reduce hazards on the job,” National COSH co-executive director Marcy Goldstein-Gelb urges. “There is no reason to tolerate irresponsible behavior by employers who fail to provide a safe workplace – and force workers and families to pay the price.”