OSHA originally opened for business on April 28, 1971. The date is commemorated today as Workers Memorial Day, wherein labor unions and other groups remember those who have been injured or died on the job. The event is also used as an annual vehicle for further discussion on safe workplaces and practices. The event has become global, with unions and worker groups making a point of celebrating the date in hundreds of nations, according toHazardsmagazine.
According to the ALF-CIO, the first Workers Memorial Day in the United States was observed in 1989. April 28 was chosen because it is the anniversary of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the day of a similar remembrance in Canada. The Canadian “National Day of Mourning,” celebrated on April 28 since 1985, became embodied by parliamentary decree in 1990. The International Labour Organization began international observance of the day in 2001.
In an AFL-CIO release commemorating the event, the organization used the opportunity to express its view of the state of occupational health and safety: “At the behest of corporate interests, the administration has moved to roll back and weaken protections. Voluntary compliance has been favored over new protective standards and enforcement. Progress has ground to a halt and may be reversing. Many workers have little or no protection, and major hazards remain unaddressed.”
According to release today from NIOSH, “Workers Memorial Day encourages us to think of what we can do as individuals and organizations to make workplaces safer and healthier.”
Among events planned for today, a coalition of Los Angeles workers unions, along with student and community groups, will stage a public funeral procession through downtown L.A.
OSHA director Edwin Foulke released a statement commemorating the day, but the agency did not plan any events. "On this day, we remember and honor those who were injured or lost their lives as a result of job-related hazards," said Foulke. "One fatality is one too many. We pay tribute to them and will continue to remain steadfast in our mission of promoting a safe and healthy workplace for all employees."
A similar, week-long event,North American Occupational Safety and Health Week, is held in early May.