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Remembering family and friends killed in work accidents

All over Illinois and the nation, people gathered in honor of the men and women who have been injured or who lost their lives in workplace accidents. Workers' Memorial Day services were a time to express gratitude while focusing on the challenges still facing us. In many industries such as construction, worker accidents are a regular occurrence. By ignoring the tragedies of the past, we put today's workers at greater risk.

The AFL-CIO, for one, pressed the message home-safety is everyone's concern. With more than 6 million workers in the state, the job of ensuring a safe work environment for all is not a simple one. Currently, Illinois employs 77 workplace inspectors to oversee every worksite in the state. This is one area that labor organizations would like to see improved.

The consequences of taking no action are clear. In 2009, more than 4,300 workers were killed in work-related accidents. In Illinois alone, there were more than 135,000 workplace injuries and illnesses. The numbers only tell part of the story. Every workplace fatality has a powerful impact on the loved ones of the individual lost. Families deal with the tragedy of what they have lost every day. Parents mourn lost children. Husbands and wives are left to raise their children alone.

In the end, everyone needs to do more to ensure worker safety. Where unsafe practices and known hazards exist, it is up to all of us to speak up. When the system breaks down and an employer fails to ensure a safe workplace, they must be held accountable to protect future workers.

Source: The Register-Mail, "Safety key issue on Workers' Memorial Day," Tom Loewy, 29 Apr 2011

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