Oregon OSHA Administrator
By Michael Wood
Over the past decade, the April issue of Resource – coming as it does a few weeks before Worker Memorial Day – has often led me to reflect on lives lost in Oregon workplaces. As I scan those past issues, I am repeatedly struck by how little the struggle against death in the workplace has changed in that time. In one sense, that's discouraging. The challenges remain the same, however strongly we feel about them. In another sense, however, it's encouraging, because we know what we must do. And there is a value in reminding ourselves of past commitments.
“The lives whose loss we commemorate this month were individuals, each with his or her own story. And the lives we saved yesterday, and last week, and last month – as well as those we will save tomorrow, and next week, and next year – are individual victories. We need to remember yesterday's failures, but we must also fight for tomorrow's victories.”
“Whenever we talk about the data, and about rates, and about trends, and about statistical validity, we must never lose site of the reality behind all of those numbers: real people, with real stories, and real friends and family. And I am convinced that the work we do has made a difference for others just like them.”
“What is missing when it comes to achieving the next real reduction in the death rates? I fear, in part, it is a lack of will. It is a belief that we are 'pretty good' at dealing with workplace risks. And it is a belief that 'pretty good' is good enough. As we approach Worker Memorial Day again this year, I ask you to join me in declaring that we can do better.”
“We can celebrate our successes. But we must never rest upon them as though we have done all that we can do. Because we have not done what we can, or what we should. While we fool ourselves, our friends, our neighbors, our family members – someone will die. And we will shake our heads. We will wonder what can be done.”
“The rallying cry for Worker Memorial Day each year is to mourn the dead and fight for the living. Perhaps we need to mourn a bit less – but fight a good bit harder!”
“As I have said before, any death in the workplace is a tragedy. It is a life cut short. It is a loss of dreams, of the future, and of a life of love and sharing. Whether those grieving such a death are family or are friends, they know that it was not, in fact, 'time.' It came too early.”
“I would offer this reminder to all those who strive to address hazards that can cause injury, illness, and death in the workplace: As much as I feel the loss of my father, I know that the pain and tragedy is multiplied many times for those who lose a loved one in the workplace. And that is why we do what we do.”
Each year, April is a reminder. The work matters. Because the lives we protect matter. And we can do better.
Editor's note: The annual Worker Memorial Day ceremony is Thursday, April 28, in Salem.
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