More than 50 years ago on April 28, Workers Memorial Day, the Occupational Safety and Health Act went into effect, promising every worker the right to a safe job—a fundamental right. The law was won because of the tireless efforts of the labor movement, which organized for safer working conditions and demanded action from the government to protect working people. Since then, unions and our allies have fought hard to make that promise a reality—winning protections under the law that have made jobs safer and saved lives. But our work is not done. Each year, thousands of workers are killed and millions more suffer injury and illness because of dangerous working conditions that are preventable.
Our nation’s job safety laws are still too weak, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) lack the resources they need to protect workers. Many employers and workers never see OSHA in their workplaces. Penalties are still too low to be a deterrent. Corporations exploit these weaknesses and create environments where workers are not adequately protected when they speak out against unsafe working conditions.
In a March guest blog post by Debbie Berkowitz and Patrick Dixon of the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor on the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) website, the authors wrote that an average of 27 workers a day suffer amputation or hospitalization.
“Updated data released by federal OSHA reveal that employers from the covered 29 states reported 74,025 severe injuries to the federal agency between January 1, 2015, and May 31, 2022. That amounts to a stunning 27 workers a day, on average, suffering among the most severe work injuries in just over half the states.”
While workplace safety became one of the main concerns for many employers in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, the U.S. continues to see woeful disregard for employee safety and health by some employers, with many having recurring violations recorded by OSHA.