May 2, 2024 / Riley Cagle

Worker's Memorial Day 2024

Image Credit: Getty Images / Muhammad Zeeshan

Recently, I had the honor of presenting at the Worker's Memorial Day Expo, hosted by OSHA, and of attending the wreath-laying ceremony in honor of fallen workers nationwide. Attendees at these events had the opportunity to meet and speak with the families of workers whose lives were cut short by workplace hazards, most of which were preventable.

After speaking with these families, one thing became clear: when a worker is killed on the job, it isn't just the families who grieve. Their communities grieve, too. Every fallen worker is a son, a daughter, a father, a mother, a neighbor, a friend, or a part of a larger community. I'm not afraid to share that it brought a few tears to my eyes, listening to the toll that workplace hazards have taken on countless families across the country.

This experience crystallizes our work not just at AIHA and among our membership but as a community of OEHS professionals. It strikes deeply at the heart of why many of you do what you do. All of us, volunteers, staff, and members, work in some way to prevent the tragedies that befell these families. It gives our work a higher purpose and a meaning that transcends politics, cultures, and beliefs.

We all agree that workers deserve the right to come home to their families safely every night and that they deserve healthy and safe workplaces, free of hazards that can irreparably change their lives. That is the core value of all OEHS professionals, and what inspires them to pursue such a noble career.

It saddens me to say that many of us know a worker who was either injured or killed while at work. In my hometown of Lula, Georgia, workplace tragedies on farms are all too common, and everyone in the community has witnessed too many young men and women get hurt on the job. If you take away anything from this blog post, let it be that the work you do, although you may not receive appreciation for it in the moment, is one of the most important jobs in this country. Every day, you ensure that a son, a daughter, a mother, a father, a grandparent, an aunt, an uncle, a brother, a sister, a neighbor, or a friend gets to come home and spend cherished and precious time with their loved ones. You are the force behind the scenes that allows a worker to witness their child's first words or first steps, their graduation, or their wedding; you are the force that allows them to experience life at its fullest and to not have it cut short or delayed by a preventable hazard.

For this year's Worker's Memorial Day, I want to convey to the OEHS community, both AIHA members and nonmembers, that you are appreciated, that you are essential, and that you have saved countless lives as a profession. All your technical expertise, your volunteer hours writing comments to agencies, and your dedication have led to a safer and healthier world for all workers.

To whom much is given, much is expected. You have all been given much in the way of knowledge, talent, and skill, and you have delivered on your professional duties to protect workers. Be proud of all you have achieved.

AIHA staff are honored to connect you with government officials and represent your interests, and they are thankful for the expertise you provide them to help them do their jobs. Thank you for all that you do.

Riley Cagle

Riley Cagle is AIHA’s advocacy associate


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