Director's Spotlight: Workers Memorial Day 2010
Several hundred people gathered on the South Lawn of the Capitol on Wednesday, April 28th, to commemorate Workers Memorial Day, an event of remembrance for Missouri workers who lost their lives while on the job in 2009. To further honor these workers and to promote safer workplaces, Gov. Jay Nixon recently proclaimed April 25 through May 1 as Workers Memorial Week in Missouri.
In years past, the ceremony has been a fairly small event, with the Labor Department Director presenting a proclamation from the governor to the AFL-CIO. This year, however, the ceremony was a much larger occasion. Labor Department and AFL-CIO representatives were joined by the families of 18 of the workers who died while at work last year, as well as several Missouri State Senators and Representatives who lost constituents. Each family in attendance was presented with a personal proclamation from Gov. Nixon, an American flag from their senator, and a Missouri flag from their representative. Twenty-two senators and 29 representatives participated by providing these flags. Also joining the ceremony to honor the fallen was the Missouri Department of Corrections Color Guard and a bagpiper, the Honorable Bill McKenzie.
While the ceremony sought to honor those who lost their lives and their families, the Labor Department also wanted to emphasize that the emphasis of the ceremony should also be what all Missourians can do about workplace safety in the future. To reduce these accidents, the Labor Department offers free workplace safety training and programs to high-hazard businesses with 250 or fewer employees. Participation in the On-Site Safety and Health Program can lead to a reduction in workplace injuries and fatalities, as well as a reduction in the employer’s workers’ compensation insurance and out-of-pocket expenses.
The Department’s Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP) rewards small businesses that maintain a safe and healthy work environment. Once qualified, participants become members of the SHARP and benefit by achieving a reduction in workplace hazards, improved morale, increased worker productivity, and paying reduced workers’ compensation premiums.
To further ensure workplace safety, a new law took effect on Aug. 28, 2009, which requires all contractors and subcontractors who work on public works projects to train their on-site employees on potential hazards they may encounter while working on the project, by taking a 10 hour OSHA construction safety class. If an on-site employee is found without proper documentation showing the course was completed, a $2,500 fine, plus $100 per day will be assessed to the contractor for each noncompliant employee.
It is our hope that all Missourians can use the lessons of Workers Memorial Day to create a safer future in the workplace.