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Workers' Memorial Day Commemorated in April

Workers' Memorial Day graphic.

April 28 is Workers’ Memorial Day, an annual event created half a century ago to remember people nationwide who died from work-related injuries or illnesses.

More than 50 years later, this event remains as important as ever. That’s because workplace fatalities remain a serious problem nationwide and in many states as well, including Pennsylvania.

So, just how bad are workplace fatalities? And why are workers still dying due to work-related illnesses or injuries? Here are the details you should know.

History of Workers’ Memorial Day

The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) created Workers’ Memorial Day in 1970. That year, 13,870 people died in work-related accidents, according to a U.S. Department of Labor announcement about the annual event. That’s 38 work-related fatalities per day.

“On Workers Memorial Day, as we remember the people whose jobs claimed their lives, we must recognize that behind these numbers, there are people who mourn each loss,” Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Doug Parker said, according to the Department of Labor announcement. “For them, these statistics are loved ones: they’re parents, children, siblings, relatives, friends, or co-workers.”

Work-related fatalities have decreased since 1970

Since 1970, fewer workers have died in work-related accidents in general. In 2022, a total of 5,486 people died in work-related accidents, according to the most recent workplace fatality data compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). That’s a 60.4 percent decrease compared to 1970.

In recent years, workplace deaths have increased

Workplace fatality statistics for 2022 might seem encouraging – until you compare them to more recent years. The year before, 5,190 people died in work-related accidents in 2021, according to BLS data cited by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in a recent announcement about Workers’ Memorial Day. That’s a 5.7 percent increase from 2021 to 2022.

The year before that, 4,764 died as a result of workplace fatalities in 2020 nationwide, according to BLS data. That’s an 8.9 percent increase in the number of work-related fatalities between 2020 and 2021. And compared to 2022, workplace fatalities have increased by 15.1 percent since 2020.

In addition, such numbers don’t take into account the thousands of other people who die due to long-term work-related illnesses. According to the CDC, an estimated 460,534 to 709,792 people die each year due to work-related illnesses. And that number might even be higher, the CDC noted.

Workplace fatalities are also a problem in Pennsylvania

The recent upward trend in workplace fatalities nationwide has also occurred in Pennsylvania. Since 2020, workplace fatalities have increased each year in the state, according to the latest workplace fatality statistics compiled by the BLS. In 2020, there were 148 workplace fatalities in Pennsylvania. In 2021, that figure increased to 162 deaths. And in 2022, a total of 183 workers in Pennsylvania died as a result of a work-related injury.

What are the common causes of workplace fatalities?

While the numbers change from year to year, many of the reasons why people die as a result of a work-related accident remain the same. According to the most recent workplace fatality statistics compiled by the BLS and the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI), the most common causes of workplace fatalities include:

  • Work-related transportation accidents, which caused 2,066 workplace fatalities nationwide in 2022.
  • Violent attacks at work – 849 deaths in 2022.
  • Exposure to dangerous chemicals and other harmful substances – 839 deaths in 2022.
  • Work-related fall, slip, and trip accidents – 865 deaths in 2022.
  • Struck by an object or equipment at work – 738 deaths in 2022.

“On this day of remembrance, we should reflect on what might have prevented their loss and recommit ourselves to doing all we can — and all that can be done — to safeguard workers and to fulfill our moral obligation and duty as a nation to protect America’s workers,” OSHA’s Parker said according to the Department of Labor announcement.

Why should I hire a workers’ compensation attorney?

If you or a loved one was hurt at work or became sick on the job, you should be eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits, including death benefits for surviving family members. However, obtaining the benefits you deserve can often be very challenging. This is why it’s critical that you have an experienced workers’ compensation attorney on your side who can explain in detail the different legal options available to you.

Anthony R. Vellner is an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer in Pennsylvania who can help you every step of the way. He knows what to do because his legal team at Vellner Law, PC has years of experience handling complex legal cases involving workers’ compensation claims throughout Pennsylvania.

Get the law firm that will work hard for you from start to finish. Contact us and schedule a free consultation. We have offices conveniently located in Bethlehem and Allentown and represent injury victims throughout Pennsylvania.

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