On April 28, organizations and governments worldwide commemorated workers who have died, been injured or disabled, or made sick due to unsafe workplaces. In the United States, April 28 is Workers’ Memorial Day and the anniversary of the establishment of OSHA in 1971. In Canada, it’s the National Day of Mourning for workers killed or injured on the job. The International Labour Organization (ILO) recognizes April 28 as the World Day for Safety and Health at Work. This year, Workers’ Memorial Day closely followed the tragedy in West, Texas, in which a massive explosion at a fertilizer plant killed 14 people—many of them first responders—and injured 200 others.
“This day of remembrance is especially poignant as we mourn those lost in the explosion in Texas,” said AIHA® President Allan K. Fleeger, CIH, CSP. “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.”
In conjunction with Workers' Memorial Day, OSHA launched a new initiative to further protect temporary workers. According to the agency’s press release, OSHA has directed its field inspectors to assess whether employers who use temporary workers are complying with their responsibilities under the OSH Act and whether temporary workers are receiving required training in a language and vocabulary they can understand. In addition, OSHA created a new code in the agency’s information system that inspectors will use to identify specific situations in which temporary workers are exposed to health and safety violations. In a statement about the initiative, Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for OSHA, said, “Workers must be safe, whether they've been on the job for one day or for 25 years.”
ILO announced that the focus of this year’s World Day for Safety and Health at Work was the prevention of occupational diseases. As in past years, the organization issued a report related to the chosen focus of the year. This year's report, “The Prevention of Occupational Diseases,” provides a global view of occupational disease, assesses the need for better data on the subject, and outlines steps to prevent occupational disease.
“Significantly reducing the incidence of occupational disease is not simple,” ILO Director-General Guy Ryder said in a statement. “It may not be easy and it will not happen overnight, but progress is certainly feasible. So let us, in our respective areas of responsibility, set clear [occupational safety and health] goals, establish a road map and most critically, act and persevere so that, together, we succeed in turning the tide on the epidemic and make good progress on this dimension of decent work.”