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Memorial event renews call for additional workplace safety guidelines

Ashley Hirtzel

Laborers, community members and local officials commemorated the lives of workers who have died on the job from injury or illness Monday. Workers Memorial Day aims to shed light on existing on the job hazards.

The event also calls upon elected officials and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to renew its promise of protecting workers. Western New York Council on Occupational Safety and Health or WNYCOSH Executive Director Germain Harnden says roughly 4,000 people die while on the job each year across the country. She says those death could have been prevented.

“We do have protections in the workplace and they have been helping to decrease injuries and deaths on the job, but there are still of issues with chemical exposures and many other hazards in the workplace,” said Harnden.

Harden says all workers should be able to go to work and return home safely to their family and loved ones at the end of the day.

Clean Air Coalition Organizer Rebecca Newberry says she’s calling on U.S. Congress to update the Protecting America’s Workers Act. She says the reforms to the law should include additional resources for training and enforcement, an increase in penalties for health and safety violations and greater protection of victims’ rights, by enhancing protection from retaliation for workers who speak out and refuse unsafe work.

Frank Hansen is with United Steel Workers 6992. During the event Hansen talked about the death of a worker at DuPont’s Tonawanda plant back in 2010. Hansen says worker death can be prevented if companies like DuPont chose safety over production quotas.

“DuPont has this program in place called ‘Behavioral Based Safety,’ which is nothing more than a way to blame the worker for getting hurt. Instead of looking at the root cause they always drop it down to how can we blame the worker. It’s never management's fault it’s never the surroundings,” said Hansen.

Hansen says employees should be encouraged to hold their companies accountable for keeping their workplace safe. Workers Memorial Day is being observed across the country Monday as well.