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Workers' Memorial Day: Honoring those lost in workplace accidents

Last Thursday, April 28th, was the annual Workers' Memorial Day. Although Ohio recognizes workers who lose their lives in workplace accidents, it seems like the government is still falling short of preventing on-the-job deaths.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 4,340 individuals were killed in on-the-job accidents in 2009. Another 50,000 were killed from occupational diseases. In total, more than 4.1 million individuals reported injuries or illnesses from workplace accidents. Moreover, because many people do not report their injuries, the actual number of on-the-job injuries is likely between 8 and 12 million annually.

There have been accomplishments in workers' compensation matters, but the country still has a long way to go. Large accidents from last year highlight a few places in which safety measures could still be improved:

  • Twenty-nine workers were killed in the Massey Energy Explosion - the worst coal mine disaster in nearly 30 years.
  • Six workers were killed at an explosion at the Kleen Energy Plant.
  • Seven workers were killed at the Tesoro Refinery.
  • Eleven workers were killed in the BP/Transocean Gulf Coast oil rig explosion. The accident caused an enormous environmental and economic disaster.

Although the Occupational Safety and Health Administration aims to ensure employers follow national safety regulations, the organization does not have enough funds or workers to adequately follow through with that.

The number of federal and state inspectors is inadequate when compared with the number of workplaces under OSHA's jurisdiction. One estimate suggests that the current ratio allows federal inspectors to visit each workplace once every 129 years, and state workers to visit every 67 years.

Some employers take advantage of the lack of funds available to OSHA. Employers cut safety measures to save money and time. However, as the president AFL-CIO succinctly stated, "Safety regulations don't kill jobs, but unsafe jobs do kill workers."

Source: EHS Today, "Workers' Memorial Day: Death on the Job: AFL-CIO Releases Annual Report," Sandy Smith, 28 April 2011

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Philip J. Fulton Law OfficeRepresenting Victims Of Workplace Injuries And Disability

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