Worker Safety March Is April 24

In 2005, Rob Hackley, a worker at a Pepsi factory in Florida, was burned so seriously that doctors had to perform surgery on him twice. He barely survived. The federal agency charged with workplace safety, OSHA, investigated. OSHA's report concluded that Hackley's injuries had been preventable if Pepsi had given him proper safety equipment, and that his bosses had told workers to “throw safety out the window and get the work done.” The bosses showed “deliberate, voluntary and intentional disregard to employee safety.” But OSHA gave Pepsi only a minimal fine.

The average OSHA fine last year was $1,680. For employers like Pepsi, it is cheaper to simply pay the fines than to invest in the equipment and training required to save workers' lives.

In 2011, the most recent year for which data were available, 4,693 workers were killed on the job in the USA and about 50,000 died from occupational diseases. Many more suffered serious but non-fatal injuries and illnesses. Construction was the most dangerous industry.

On April 24 at noon on the steps of Northampton City Hall, 210 Main Street, there will be a commemoration to reflect and take action for workers who have been killed by their job. The gathering will be followed by a march to the Registry of Deeds at 33 King Street.

The next day, April 25 at 1 p.m. at the Teamster's Hall, 115 Progress Avenue, in Springfield, there will be another commemoration for workers killed by their jobs.

The events are being promoted by the western Massachusetts chapter of www.jwj.org.

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