Every year, work-related injuries claim the lives of approximately 5,000 Americans – and a much larger number fall victim of occupational diseases after extended workplace exposures to hazardous substances. That’s why workers across the United States and beyond mark April 28 as “Workers’ Memorial Day.” It’s a day of remembrance for those killed on the job.
Death on the job may be a rarity for those of us fortunate enough to work in offices, but it’s a reality for millions of our brothers and sisters working in sectors such as agriculture, transportation, construction and manufacturing. Tractors roll over. Trucks collide. Roofers fall from great heights. Factory workers are crushed in powerful machinery.
Every one of these deaths is preventable.
Work is part of the created order. In Scripture we read how God placed Adam and Eve in the garden and directed them to tend it. Made in the image and likeness of our Creator, we were expected to continue the work of Creation with our own labor. But God never intended work to be a death sentence.
Too often, employers cut corners on worker safety to cut costs, and tragedy results. OSHA investigations following a worker’s death routinely discover that basic safety measures had been neglected to speed up production. This must not continue.
This Friday, there will be events across the country in memory of those who have died on the job. I would encourage you to mark Workers’ Memorial Day in some fashion. Pray for the souls of those who died from workplace injuries or illnesses. Attend a memorial service. Lift up your voice for worker safety with a letter to the editor or a social media post.
In the words of Mother Jones, one of our Catholic labor heroes: Pray for the dead, and fight like hell for the living!