Workers Memorial Day

By Jennifer Rous ~

Those who observe Workers Memorial Day on April 28 are bonded by a shared, and painful experience: the loss of loved one, friend or colleague who died because of on-the-job injury, illness or disease.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 5,486 people suffered fatal workplace injuries in the U.S. in 2022, the most recent year for which data are available. Some of these fatalities happened here in Denver and in other parts of Colorado. Like the 30-year-old who fell 30 feet while working on a residential building… or the 25-year-old who fell off a working platform eight stories high… or the 28-year-old struck by a falling branch as he worked to trim a tree.

Each of these workers have families and friends who loved them and now mourn their loss. Each is special to someone and is now gone forever. Their absences scar families and diminish our communities. 

When the nation first marked Workers Memorial Day in 1970, about 38 people died on the job each day. While significant progress has been made since OSHA was created in 1971, and less than half – 15 workers — die each day in the U.S. now, the fact remains that even one is too many.    

Tragically, most workplace deaths can be prevented. Employers who make safety and health a core workplace value, and go beyond the minimum safety standards, better protect their workers from hazards. When proper control measures are in place and safety and health is a priority, workers are in fact safer and they feel safer in their workplaces. Most importantly, fewer workers suffer fatal injuries. 

Workers Memorial Day allows us to remember the fallen workers in our communities and across the nation. A time to reflect on the loss their families endure every single day…an opportunity to think about their deaths’ effects on our communities… and call to recommit ourselves to demanding employers fulfill their moral and legal obligations to protect workers.

A safe workplace is not a privilege, it is every worker’s right regardless of race, ethnicity, age, gender or immigration status. As we often say at the department, good jobs change lives. And good jobs are safe jobs. Every worker has the right to get home safe at the end of the workday. We all need to work together to make sure that happens. 

Jennifer Rous is the Denver Region Administrator for OSHA

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