On April 28, 2016, the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades will observe Workers Memorial Day to honor workers who have died on the job and to continue the fight for safe working conditions. Every year, thousands of workers are killed while performing their duties on the job site, while even more sustain serious injuries. It is the duty and responsibility of the labor movement to demand safe working conditions and regulations that will protect our workers while on the job. Although organized labor has played a pivotal role in the fight for safe working environments, we still have a long way to go.
The IUPAT and the unions of the AFL-CIO have worked hard to put rules in place that protect workers from job hazards, as well as rules that hold employers accountable for providing workers with safe working conditions. However, there is still a number of business groups and contractors who are determined to eliminate existing protections and rights for construction employees. Those businesses in question want to contract out dangerous work without taking any responsibility for the employees who work in these hazardous environments.
Recent victories to make the workplace safer thanks to organized labor and our allies include:
- A new OSHA standard that greatly reduces the limit to silica dust exposure which will no doubt save hundreds of lives each year.
- A new law that will allow OSHA to increase its penalties by 80% for workplace safety and health violations for the first time since 1990.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has identified the four leading causes of workplace fatalities for construction workers. According to OSHA, the most common workplace fatalities are falls, electrocutions, being struck by an object, and caught-in/between. In 2014, these “fatal four” were responsible for more than half of construction worker deaths. OSHA estimates that 508 workers’ lives could be saved every year if we eliminated the fatal four.
Read more about the dangers workers face on the job in the 2016 edition of Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect report from the AFL-CIO.
Let’s use Workers Memorial Day 2016 as an opportunity to promote safe work practices and advocate for our workers who put their lives on the line to get the job done. For more information, visit these links: www.osha.gov, www.bls.gov and on the Department of Labor Workers Memorial Day website.