Most people understand that there are many dangerous professions and value the sacrifices workers in these professions make to get the job done. Most also believe that hazardous working conditions for the rest of us are relics of the past, eliminated by state and federal programs designed to protect workers on the job. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth.
Workers across the country continue to be exposed to unnecessary hazards because they are poorly regulated and inadequately controlled. In Florida in 2012, 218 workers died and in 2013, 234 workers lost their lives on the job. We also know that hundreds of thousands of Florida workers have experienced workplace injury or illness, although these numbers have yet to be fully reported to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Although some lawmakers have tried to strengthen protections with tougher enforcement, big business groups and ideologically extreme Legislators are trying to roll back regulations and block new safeguards that protect workers.
According to the AFL-CIO’s annual report, “Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect,” in 2012, 3 million injuries and illnesses were reported in private-sector workplaces. The Bureau of Labor Statistics survey also included data on work-related injuries and illnesses among state and local government workers: an additional 792,700 workers nationwide were injured or made sick in 2012, for a total of 3.8 million reported work-related injuries and illnesses. The report also shows that according to final fatality data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 4,628 workplace deaths due to traumatic injuries in 2012, almost equal to the 4,693 deaths reported in 2011.
In Florida the situation is even worse for our public sector workers whose workplaces are not covered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) because there is no department of labor in our state to provide regulation or enforcement for even some of the most basic safety standards.
Every year on April 28th, Workers Memorial Day, we pay tribute to those who have lost their lives on the job, as well as those who’ve been injured or made sick due to workplace safety violations. We call on our elected officials to do more and do better. All workers should be able to go to work and return home safe and sound to their loved ones, and no worker should have to sacrifice life, limbs or health to earn an honest day’s pay.
Rich Templin is the legislative and political director for the Florida AFL-CIO and lives in Tallahassee Florida. Column courtesy of Context Florida.