Every year on April 28, Workers’ Memorial Day is observed across the nation to honor workers who have died on the job and acknowledge the grief of their families, friends and communities while recommitting to making workplaces safe and healthful for everyone.
Yesterday, 34 names were read at a Memorial for Iowa workers who died on the job last year. Among the fatalities, were employees ranging from a switch operator struck by a rail car to a pipe layer killed in a trench collapse. The ages of the 34 Iowa workers included those as young as 22 to a seasoned employee of 71.
2016 was an especially difficult year for central Iowa law enforcement, which saw two officers targeted by a gunman in November, and two more, the victims of a wrong way drunk driver earlier in the year. Another Iowa police officer was also killed in an accident while riding his personal motorcycle.
Although the number of workers killed on the job have decreased in recent years, Iowa’s Labor Commissioner, Michael Mauro, acknowledged that “we need fewer’ in the state and, of course, the nation as a whole.
Not coincidentally, on the same day in April, back in 1971, OSHA was established, whose role is to ensure that employers provide their workers a safe and healthful workplace through enforcement, training, education and assistance as required under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970.
Although, the work of the agency and employers have improved conditions for workers in the U.S. substantially, the tragic 34 workplace fatalities in Iowa remind us that there is more work to be done.