Tomorrow, April 28, is Workers Memorial Day, a day of remembrance held each year to honor those who have been injured or lost their lives on the job. The day feels especially weighted this year in light of the many losses from COVID-19 happening around us every day.
Before the onset of the pandemic, the Department of Industrial relations released a gloomy report in December showing there were 422 job-related deaths in California in 2018, a sharp increase from 376 in 2017 and the first total above 400 since 2009 when 409 fatal injuries were recorded.
Latinx and Hispanic workers accounted for nearly half of those deaths – at 43 percent – while workers aged 55 and older accounted for nearly a third at 32 percent.
Nationally, there were 5,250 workplace deaths in 2018, up from 5,147 in 2017, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
With Latinx and older workers continuing to account for such high percentages, it’s clear that more outreach and training is needed for these individuals, and employers should make these safety efforts a priority.
Protecting the safety of employees is even more crucial during the coronavirus crisis as there are many essential workers at high risk of becoming infected while on the job. Ensuring they have the proper safety equipment is of the utmost importance, and making sure they have the safety net of workers’ compensation is critical should they become infected.
While it will be some time before we know the true toll the COVID-19 pandemic will take on workers in California and across the country, one thing is certain: we will honor these heroes and all of our fallen workers this Workers Memorial Day and each thereafter as we continue to push for worker protections with the hope of greatly decreasing the risk of injury or death for simply going to work.