Guest Commentary: Honor fallen workers by protecting others


Jacob Ladd is the director of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration area office in Wilmington.

In December 2021, a 59-year-old worker was fatally struck by a falling tree during logging operations at a new residential development in Milton. In April 2022, another 59-year-old laborer was struck by a skid steer at a Dover worksite and later died from his injuries. A few months later, in August, a compost technician was fatally crushed by a hay bale that weighed between 1,200 and 1,600 pounds at a farm in Hockessin.

Federal safety investigations that followed determined two of the three Delaware employers failed to implement work practices that complied with Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations and could have better protected the employees. Sadly, workplace deaths are an all-too-common occurrence in the U.S.

In Delaware, six workers lost their lives in 2022. Most of these workers were employed in the construction and agriculture industries. Each day, 14 people in the U.S. suffer work-related deaths.

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 co-workers. Graduations, birthdays, anniversaries and other special times are forever tainted.

On April 28, we paid tribute to these six Delaware workers and all those whose jobs claimed their lives, during the Workers Memorial Day annual commemoration. This was an opportunity for us to pause and join those families, friends and co-workers to recall those who suffered work-related injuries and illnesses. The remembrance also recognizes the grief that their survivors face in the days, months and years after.

Workers Memorial Day 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 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.

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