COVID-19 victims among the fallen workers to be honored in April 28 ceremony
TUMWATER — Coronavirus (COVID-19) played a significant role in the increase in work-related deaths in Washington last year. Two dozen COVID-19 fatalities were among more than 100 Washington workers who died on the job or in connection with their work in 2020.
Washington’s Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) claim records show 24 people passed away after contracting COVID-19 while working in hospitals, long-term care facilities, agriculture jobs, and other workplaces. Another 24 workers died following long battles with occupational illnesses.
L&I will honor all 119 of the fallen workers during its annual Worker Memorial Day ceremony, a virtual event on April 28.
"The fact that we aren’t able to be together in person for the ceremony is a reminder of just how tough this past year has been," said Joel Sacks, L&I director. "No one can attest to that more than the families who lost a loved one."
Twenty-one more Washington workers died as a result of workplace accidents or illnesses compared to 2019. Construction and agriculture were the most dangerous industries, claiming 22 and 21 lives, respectively. Agriculture includes farming, forestry, fishing, and hunting.
Falls, being struck or injured by machinery, and motor vehicle accidents continue to be the leading causes of workplace deaths, although motor vehicle accidents were down last year. Workplace homicides and suicides dropped slightly.
The people being honored in the Worker Memorial Day ceremony ranged in age from 20 to 98 years old. They were frontline workers, corrections officers, business owners, machine operators, a youth pastor, real estate agent, and more. They were moms, dads, brothers, sisters, colleagues, and friends.
"The people we honor went to work thinking they would come home to their friends and families, but never did," said Sacks. "Knowing that every one of these deaths was preventable reminds us we must all work harder to ensure workers make it home safely at the end of the day."
The virtual ceremony will include remarks from Gov. Jay Inslee, representatives from the Association of Washington Business, the Washington State Labor Council, the Washington Self-Insurers Association, and Tina Meyer, whose son Cody was working as a flagger when he was hit and killed by a distracted driver in 2015.
Each of the names of the fallen workers will be read aloud with the traditional ringing of the bell after the last name is read.
L&I has hosted Worker Memorial Day for more than two decades. It’s one of many ceremonies in April honoring fallen workers across the nation.
April 28 is a significant day in history for worker protection. The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) national plan went into effect 50 years ago on April 28,1971.
The Washington Industrial Safety and Health Act (WISHA), administered by L&I, was established two years later in 1973. This became one of the first fully operational state safety and health plans approved by the federal government of the United States. In 2006, WISHA became DOSH, the Division of Occupational Safety and Health, at L&I.
What: Worker Memorial Day Ceremony.
When: April 28, 2021, 2-3 p.m. (PST).
Where: Livestream (https://lni.wa.gov/agency/worker-memorial-day/).
Who: Families, friends, L&I employees and the public are invited.
Dina Lorraine, L&I public affairs, 360-972-4868