April 2012 - International Worker Memorial Day
International Worker Memorial Day, April 28th
This article’s title begins with the word “International”, but let’s talk about what happens in America. In a country where people complain about having too many rules about safety, we are still killing over 4,000 people a year in the workplace. Fatalities grab headlines, but what about the vast number of people who are injured every year? Our statistics are always lagging, but in 2010 we had 4,547 fatalities. What is seldom talked about is the number of people who are injured. In 2010, there were over 3.9 million on-the-job injuries.
These are numbers we might expect in a third world country, not in the United States. We have the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Mine Safety and Health Administration, the National Institute for Safety and Health, the National Safety Council, and a host of other institutions who are leading our efforts to be safe. So how can we be killing thousands and injuring millions every year?
The answer is not difficult. There are two main culprits: employers and employees. Too many employers are not doing what they need to do to provide a safe and healthy workplace for their employees. They feel they cannot afford safety or they are simply indifferent to the safety of their employees. Employees on the other hand continue to take unnecessary risks, become complacent or don’t think about the consequences of unsafe behavior.
The reality is that employers cannot afford not to have a good safety program. It makes money in the long run. A good synonym for safety is “prevention”. Preventing unwanted and undesired events means greater productivity, improved quality, and improved safety; these are three equal partners for success in any business.
Employees need to take time to think about why they go to work; to earn a living, to do something worthwhile, to care for the ones they love, to have a sense of being. In order to accomplish these goals, each employee needs to have a commitment to safety. Nothing should be that urgent that we are willing to sacrifice safety or our life.
April 28th is International Workers Memorial Day, a day of remembrance for all those employees who gave their lives while on the job. The reasons they died should not be overlooked and each of us should look at our own lives and make the commitment to do what is right, to do what is safe and to do what is in our own best interest.