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Workers Memorial Day Honors Fallen WV Workers, Aims to Boost Safety

April 28, 2008

Wheeling, WV – A special remembrance event takes place today in Wheeling, on behalf of the 47 West Virginia workers who have died on the job in the past year. "Workers' Memorial Day" is an annual commemoration, not only of these individuals' lives, but to remind others of the need to promote better workplace safety laws. Larry Matheney, with the West Virginia AFL-CIO says it's a way to bring together coworkers and families, to honor those who died on the job.

"And we would ask anyone to take time from their busy lives, and remember those 47 West Virginia workers who perished unnecessarily in the workplace during 2007."

Matheney says the memorial event is a chance to call for changes that will prevent such tragedies in the future. This year, he adds, a top priority is getting better funding for federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) safety inspectors.

"The OSHA agency is just grossly underfunded; there are not enough dollars to support workplace investigations to prevent costly accidents."

Workers Memorial Day takes place every year, on the anniversary of the beginning of the "Occupational Safety and Health Act." Since it became law in 1971, Matheney says workplaces have been a lot safer, but there are still improvements to be made. He believes union workers, who make up about 12 percent of the workforce, take the lead on promoting workplace safety rules and laws.

"We champion the issue of workplace safety that benefits all workers. So, 12 percent of the work force is protecting the other 88 on a daily basis."

The event is scheduled for 6:00 PM today at the Veterans Memorial Amphitheater in Wheeling.

Rob Ferrett/Craig Eicher, Public News Service - WV