Middlesex County Commemorates Workers Memorial Day

From left to right: Middlesex County Freeholder Deputy Director, Ronald G. Rios, Middlesex County Freeholder Director, Christopher D. Rafano, Director of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Avenel, N.J., Office, Patricia Jones, Middlesex County Freeholder Carol Barrett Bellante, New Jersey State AFL-CIO President Charles Wowkanech and Middlesex and Somerset Central Labor Council President Thomas Tighe. (Photo courtesy of Middlesex County)

NEW BRUNSWICK – Local officials met today in New Brunswick to recognize those who have been injured or killed on the job and also to focus on the importance and need for better health and safety conditions in the workplace.

Every year, millions of men and women lose their lives or suffer debilitating illnesses or injuries while at work. To honor these workers, Workers’ Memorial Day was established nationally in 1989 and commemorated each year on April 28. As it did last year, Middlesex County held a ceremony to memorialize the friends, neighbors, colleagues and family members lost through work-related incidents.

Middlesex County held a ceremony on Workers’ Memorial Day to remember the friends, neighbors, colleagues and family members lost through work-related incidents. (Photo courtesy of Middlesex County)

“This event has special meaning to me,” said Middlesex County Freeholder Deputy Director Ronald G. Rios. “I spent much of my career training employees on occupational health and safety issues and I have seen first-hand how a workplace death or injury can impact a family, a workplace and a community. Even one death is one too many.”

“And we can’t forget that just a few weeks ago Michael Simermeyer, a construction worker in Manhattan, was killed when a crane collapsed. He, like many others, was killed while going to work everyday trying to provide for his family.”

“Future workplace injuries and illnesses can be prevented if we all work together. We each have a responsibility to workplace safety, and employers especially have an obligation to ensure that the working conditions in their facilities are the safest and healthiest they can be.”

Freeholder Director Christopher D. Rafano said: “Through the efforts of unions and workers, there have been significant improvements to working conditions. But even with their valiant efforts, there is still work to be done. We must continue to fight for safety and make it known through events such as this, that we will not accept the loss of even one worker to a dangerous situation that could have otherwise been prevented.”

“This year we mourn the loss of 72 New Jersey workers, but remind ourselves that these men and women will not be forgotten,” said New Jersey State AFL-CIO President Charles Wowkanech. “Their stories are a resounding lesson that our work of ensuring safe jobs is far from over.”

“This Workers Memorial Day, as we pause to remember those who lost their lives on the job, let us also strengthen our resolve to take the steps needed to keep workers safe,” said Patricia Jones, director of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Avenel, N.J., Office. “All workers should come home healthy and whole at the end of every workday.”

“This year marks the 101st anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City,” said Middlesex and Somerset Central Labor Council President Thomas Tighe. “146 garment workers, most of them young Jewish and Italian immigrant women in their teens and early 20s, lost their lives because the doors to the stairwells and exits had been locked while they were working.”

“That terrible tragedy helped start a movement of major safety reform in New York and other states, and ultimately led to the growth of organizations such as unions and OSHA, which still lead the fight for better conditions for workers today. These organizations have demanded protection and safer conditions for workers everywhere and continue to improve the way we live and work.”

This day is also a tribute to those who have helped lead the fight to improve conditions and safety practices throughout the nation. Workers’ Memorial Day is held on the anniversary date of the founding of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in 1971.

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