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(c) 2016 Jon L Gelman, All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Examining the Reality of Workers’ Memorial Day

Today's post comes from guest author Rod Rehm and Emily Wray Stander, from Rehm, Bennett & Moore.
We write this blog post to bring attention to an article that was a big dose of perspective about all the recent Workers’ Memorial Day celebrations. The official day is April 28 for Workers’ Memorial Day, and many groups spend a lot of effort in organizing events, discussing safety, and holding memorials. Unfortunately, as the article points out, those efforts don’t always translate into safer workplaces and fewer fatalities.
What Karen C. Yotis and Robin E. Kobayashi did was talk to “a few thought leaders in the workplace safety arena” to get the reality of the situation by asking the question: “Has worker safety improved at all during the past year?” The experts they spoke with included “Tammy Miser, Founder/Executive Director of United Support & Memorial For Workplace Fatalities; Kim Bobo, Executive Director for Interfaith Worker Justice; Charles R. ‘Chuck’ Davoli, 2014 President of Workers’ Injury Law & Advocacy Group and a Louisiana Workers Advocate; and Rebecca Shafer, attorney, author, and a workers’ compensation/risk management maven who has spent her professional life advocating for safe workplaces.”

There is often a disconnect between thought and reflection and then taking action to change a situation. The blog post treads into the waters of holding people and businesses accountable and also taking action that leads to long-term change in the form of safer work environments.
Attorneys Rod and Jon Rehm are members of WILG’s Board of Directors, which is currently led by Mr. Davoli, and the other attorneys at Rehm, Bennett & Moore are all members of WILG because of the group’s efforts towards both accountability for businesses and safety for workers.
While we urge you to read the entire blog post that’s linked to in the first paragraph, here are a couple of thought-provoking highlights.
First, it is striking that a “cost containment expert” like Ms. Shafer describes how businesses must focus on safety. Although it’s at the end of the linked article, Ms. Shafer’s commentary is excellent – the article says that she “speaks out so passionately on the employer’s obligation to keep an unrelenting focus on safety.” Here’s a partial quote that she gave to the article: “ … the bottom line is that each employer needs to make safety the #1 priority. … Until worker safety is TOP priority, a company will continue to have very little success in achieving a balanced workers’ compensation insurance program.” She writes about making safety a higher priority than profitability, but realistically, companies would be much more profitable if they were also much safer.
Finally, Mr. Davoli shared a list of “nine safety elements” for “the construction and building trades” that a Workplace Safety Task Force created in Louisiana with WILG’s help.
Here’s that excellent list:
“1. A designated safety budget as part of the normal operating budget.
 2. A formal safety committee that meets on a regular schedule.
 3. An employer that pays employees for the hours they spend attending voluntary off-duty safety training sessions.
 4. A formal personal protective equipment training program.
 5. Written and formal safety goals that are updated periodically.
 6. Safety training for subcontractors.
 7. Detailed safety reports to employees on a regular basis.
 8. Regularly scheduled safety training programs for existing employees.
 9. A disciplinary procedure for employees who commit unsafe acts.”
The reflection portion of Workers’ Memorial Day must turn to action. The reality is that until businesses buy into and change their work culture to be safe, there will always be a need to remember those who were killed at work.
Thanks to Ms. Yotis and Ms. Kobayashi for writing such an excellent piece.

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