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Worker Memorial Day 2004
by John Henshaw


April 28, 2004

Today is Worker Memorial Day, a day to pay tribute to the men and women who have lost their lives on the job. We mourn with their families and friends, and we recognize that the loss of these very special people extends beyond the home; the loss is felt in schools, places of worship, at social gatherings, in local communities, and throughout the entire nation.

This day was established to take the time to cherish the memory of these workers. These are America's sons and daughters, men and women whose sole purpose was to work hard at an honest living, support their families and their communities, and live the American dream.

We believe that we pay tribute to them most by working even harder to prevent more deaths on the job. We're making progress; in its most recent data, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that workplace fatality rates in almost all categories were down in 2002. In very basic terms that means that over 400 more mothers, fathers, sons and daughters returned home safely from their workplaces than did the year before.

Our efforts as the federal agency leading workplace safety and health must always focus on improving safety and health on the job by reducing workplace hazards in order to eliminate fatalities, injuries and illnesses on the job. We're working with stakeholders throughout the country-employers, trade associations, labor unions, safety and health professionals, and individual workers-who are committed to assuring the safety and health of America's workers.

The ultimate right of every worker is to return home safely. We must continue working to ensure that that happens. This is a day set aside to not only commemorate the lives of those men and women who went to work one day and didn't come home, but to also remind us that our work isn't finished.

The very foundation upon which this agency is built is to ensure that each worker is afforded the right to a safe workplace. We should not remember those lost with pleasant words and ceremony alone; rather, we must respect their memory and their lives by our hard work, our renewed commitment, and our dedicated passion to helping the nation's workers and employers create and sustain a safe and healthful work environment. The working men and women of this country deserve nothing less.


Note: John Henshaw is the Assistant Secretary of U.S. Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Department.



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