by Dennis C. Zeiser
April 26, 2005
Workers Memorial Day is held each year on April 28th to mourn workers killed and injured on the job. It is also the day that we rededicate ourselves to the fight to make our workplaces safer.
We still have a long way to go. Every year, nearly 6,000 people are killed at work. In addition, 50,000 workers die annually from occupational diseases and millions more are injured.
The push for production, an influx of new workers as older, more experienced workers retire, reduce staffing levels, growing use of subcontracting and outsourcing, mandatory overtime and changes in technology and work processes all pose a threat to workers safety and health. Too often, work culture and the pressure to produce trump written safety and health policies; the work culture wins and workers lose - being injured or killed. Meatpackers, laundry workers, steelworkers, distribution center workers, nurses, construction workers, flight attendants and more routinely suffer from their employers drive to reduce costs and produce more.
The overall decline in the quality of jobs is unlike any we've seen in decades. The labor movement is fighting against this trend to ensure that all Americans have a safe job that allows them to support themselves and their families with health care coverage and secure retirement benefits.
In 2003, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Alaska had the 2nd worst death rate per 100,000 workers in the United States. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out why the Alaska Workman's Compensation premiums are so high and why the business community is pushing for reform. However, passing legislation like SB 130, further hinders the majority of Alaskans , the working men and women for which Workman's Compensation is intended.
Reform needs to be directed at the problem, not the consequences. Our legislators should be focusing on ways to reduce accidents and deaths, by passing stronger safety rules and increasing the number of OSHA inspections and inspectors. Using the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Alaska's 14 inspectors do a relatively good job under the category of years to inspect each workplace once, Alaska ranks third best in the nation. It would still take those 14 inspectors 36 years to inspect each workplace in Alaska only once.
On April 28th, let's remember that millions of American workers struggle to support their families, too often being injured or killed in the process. It's time to stand up and fight to make the promise of good, safe jobs a reality for all workers.
Dennis C. Zeiser
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Sitnews.