Guest Essays, Letters to the Editor, Opinion

Guest essay: Workers Memorial Day

Honor fallen West Virginians by doing your part to protect others

by Blake McEnany  

On April 28, we commemorated Workers Memorial Day, where we remembered and honored all working men and women who lost their lives on the job in West Virginia and across the country. 

Sadly, workplace deaths are an all-too-common occurrence in the U.S. In 2021, 5,190 workers died on the job in the U.S. Each day, 14 people suffer work-related deaths. 

In West Virginia, 10 workers lost their lives in 2022. Most of these workers were employed in the construction industry, health care industry and in general industry, which is all industries not included in agriculture, construction or maritime.  

These numbers remind us of the dangers many workers face. Behind these numbers, there are people who mourn each loss. For them, these statistics are loved ones: They’re parents, children, siblings, relatives, friends or coworkers. 

For those left behind, the day their loved one was lost becomes a sad remembrance. Graduations, birthdays, anniversaries and other special times are forever tainted. 

Workers Memorial Day was an opportunity for us to pause and join those families, friends and coworkers to recall those who suffered work-related injuries, illnesses and death. The remembrance also recognized the grief that their survivors face in the days, months and years after. 

It also reminds us that more must be done to prevent workplace deaths and injuries. For those of us at the U.S. Department of Labor and, specifically, its Occupational Safety and Health Administration, this annual commemoration reinforces our commitment to developing and enforcing standards and initiatives to safeguard workers and guide employers as they work to provide safe workplaces. 

Remember, we all have a role to play in making sure our nation’s workplaces do not endanger our safety and health. If you see people exposed to workplace dangers, don’t ignore your concerns. Alert the employer or contact your local OSHA office or law enforcement agency. Demand that the stores you frequent, the companies that get your business and those you hire don’t endanger the people they employ. If they won’t, take your business to those who respect their workers’ rights to a safe and healthy workplace and who don’t put profit ahead of the lives of the people who help them earn it. 

Every day, let’s remember those West Virginians and all who didn’t return home after work and commit ourselves to making sure that no one is forced to trade their life for a paycheck. 

Blake McEnany is the director of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration Area Office in Charleston, W.Va.