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April 28 – A Day of Mourning

23 April, 2013IndustriALL observes April 28 as the day to remember workers who have lost their lives, limbs, or health at work. It is an opportunity to reflect on, and renew, our fight for healthy and safe workplaces.

April 28 ceremonies were first organized nationally by the Canadian Labour Congress in 1984, and were finally officially recognized by the Canadian government in 1991. From its Canadian origins, observance of April 28 spread globally, under various names: a Day of Mourning; International Day of Commemoration of Dead and Injured Workers; World Day for Safety and Health at Work; or Workers' Memorial Day.

The ILO estimates that globally, some 2.3 million workers die as a result of their work every year. Many millions more are injured or made ill due to occupational disease. IndustriALL considers these numbers, shocking as they are, to be grossly underestimated because of unreliable and often manipulated statistics.

From abrasives to zoonoses, there are thousands of ways your work can kill you. Of the millions of annual worker deaths, the vast majority - some 82 percent of the total - die of occupational diseases. Only about 18 percent die of sudden or violent accidents. They have this in common: workplace death is unnecessary, and preventable.

IndustriALL Global Union knows how to put a stop to this carnage.

Governments cannot escape responsibility. IndustriALL aims for a global levelling up of standards, backed by strong and enforceable legislative and regulatory systems.

At the workplace level, employers have a responsibility to provide safe and healthy workplaces and prevent accidents and diseases. This means assigning priority and resources for effective systems to eliminate or control hazards that consider all of the daily interactions of materials, tools, equipment, working environment, job design, and people.

Workers have the right to know about the hazards of their work. They have the right to refuse, or shut down, unsafe work. They have the right to participate in the setting of health and safety policies, programmes and procedures, most effectively through joint union-management health and safety committees.

Far from complicated, it is really very simple. Good laws and standards need good enforcement. Workers have rights; but employers have responsibilities. Strong unions make these rights and responsibilities take meaning: strong unions make safer and healthier workplaces!

The past weeks have been a particularly difficult time for our colleagues in the USA. Our condolences go out to the family and friends of victims of the West Fertilizer plant explosion in Waco, Texas. And, although not an occupational accident, we also mourn with the families and friends of those killed and injured in the senseless Boston Marathon attack.