By Middlesex County Freeholder Director Ronald G. Rios
Earning a living is an important part of the fabric that makes up the American dream. Offering more than just necessary wages and benefits, jobs connect us to other people and improve the quality of life in our community.
Unfortunately each year, millions of men and women lose their lives on the job or suffer debilitating illnesses and injuries because of health hazards in the workplace. So, every year on April 28, the AFL-CIO sponsors the observation of a national Workers’ Memorial Day to remember those who have suffered and died on the job and to renew our efforts for safe workplaces.
Middlesex County will hold a special ceremony April 26 in Sayreville to recognize those who have been injured or killed on the job due to workplace hazards. The ceremony also will focus on the importance and need for better health and safety conditions in the workplace.
One needs only to read the headlines of the past month to see the relevance of this important issue: A New York City subway worker gets stuck in the mud, and it took rescue workers for nearly four hours to lead him to safety. A firefighter is treated for smoke inhalation while responding to a fire in Perth Amboy. Seven Marines are killed in a training accident at the Hawthorne Army Depot in Nevada. These individuals, like many others, were hurt or killed in the daily course of their day, trying to be productive.
During my 30 years of experience working for Conrail Corporation, I became very involved in protecting my fellow workers, even serving as a Union President for 10 years. Worker safety is very near and dear to my heart. I lost two of my union brothers due to workplace hazards. Eddie was killed in a workplace accident, and Charlie was told by his doctors that his illness was work related. More than just hard working colleagues, they were great friends and good men. Their deaths have had a deep and lasting impact on my life and my work.
New Jersey is ranked as one of the best states when it comes to workplace safety. However, as a nation, we must continue to persevere with job safety programs. Let’s ensure that all work environments are made safer, healthier places for our current and future employees.
So, it is with great passion that I commemorate Workers’ Memorial Day each year. I will continue to campaign for ongoing inspections and safety programs in the workplace. And I encourage you to join us at 10 a.m. on April 26 at the intersection of Ernston Road and Bordentown Avenue in Sayreville for Middlesex County’s Commemoration ceremony.
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