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Opinion

Worker Memorial Day

Worker Memorial Day Workers and employers across the state will join the Department of Labor and Industries April 26 in setting aside a time to remember the more than 100 workers who died as a result of accidents on their jobs in 1995--and to remember that our first priority is to make our workplaces safe places.
   More than 100 workers are killed in Washington each year--that's about two people each week. It's hard to face, but nevertheless true, that most, if not all, accidents are preventable. And the only way to prevent them is by careful planning. Employers need to make sure that every employee gets proper training, the right equipment, and that their accident prevention program is an ongoing team effort by workers and managers alike.
   Final data for 1995 fatalities are not yet available, but according to the most recent statistics, the leading cause of workplace fatalities in Washington and in the nation is from highway incidents and other transportation-related accidents--like farm machinery, industrial vehicles, and airplanes.
   The number two cause of worker deaths in Washington involved workers being struck or caught by falling trees and limbs or by machinery, equipment, or other materials.
   Homicide in the workplace ranked as the number three cause of worker fatalities in Washington, with robbery being the primary motive.
   Not surprisingly, most workplace violence fatalities occur in predictably high-risk workplaces: grocery stores, liquor stores, fast-food establishments, lounges, transit vehicles--and if they are predictable, they are preventable. So, I appointed a task force of business, labor, and government representatives, asking them to develop voluntary guidelines to help businesses prevent and respond to violence in the workplace. Their report should be complete this summer.
   Labor and Industries cares about workers–and employers–and the community. Come to our workshops. L&I offers more than 1,000 no-fee workshops every year throughout the state on more than 25 different topics. Ask for a free and confidential safety and health consultation. Our specialists have helped more than 1,300 businesses analyze their safety and accident prevention programs this year.

Mark O. Brown, Director, Department of Labor and Industries