April 28 is Workers’ Memorial Day, a day of remembrance and commitment initially established by the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), and now also known throughout numerous countries as World Day for Safety and Health at Work. Annually, this day honors and commemorates workers who have lost their lives on the job, recognizing the tremendous loss to families, peers and communities. It is an emotional holiday for everyone touched by this loss.

The loss brings communities together to recognize these workers, remember their lives, and raise their voices and ours to share and grieve together. Through enduring this journey together, we share insight into these incidents and work together to prevent others from losing their lives from occupational fatalities – fatalities that should never have been the cost of going to work.

In Wyoming, occupational fatalities cover all business sectors, from motor vehicle carriers to roofing contractors. Occupational fatalities do not discriminate on any level. We know that implementing controls and training can greatly reduce the potential for fatalities; we all share this commitment to each other, our families and our communities. 

Numerous reports and data sets are available to show occupational fatalities in the state and the nation. These reports give raw numbers but need an explanation. The number often creates fear, anger and heartbreak. They do little to reduce these fatalities, nor do they share the facts or importance of how we all play a part in the answer. We all play an essential role in reducing these fatalities. Whether an employer, coworker or concerned citizen, we have a voice to stop dangerous actions around us if we choose to use it.

In the past year in Wyoming, there has been as increase in fatalities that involve falls from height. These falls have been directly related to the improper or inadequate use of fall protection. These fatalities are preventable through education, appropriate controls and raising our voices to protect one another; voices that we must choose to use regardless of the title we hold in the community, because protecting the lives of others is a responsibility we all hold.

Resources are available to employers or employees in Wyoming to understand challenges and ways to provide safety and health at worksites through websites, phones, or in person. These resources include Compliance, Consultation, and Risk Management services offered through both Department of Workforce Services Safety and Risk and Wyoming OSHA.

On April 28, we will celebrate and commemorate the lives of workers who have lost their lives. We will look to the lives affected by the loss of these people from our families, peers and communities. We can all raise our voices to protect one another, share resources for health and safety and come together to stop preventable occupational fatalities in Wyoming. Will you join us in raising your voice to help Wyoming workers return home safely, too?

Karen J. Bebensee MS, CIH, CPM, CSP
OSHA Program Manager, Wyoming Department of Workforce Services