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How Reporting Accidents Bond Workforces

Opening meetings with accident incidences re-enforces our mission and unites the cause

Kris LaGrange's picture
Apr 23, 2018

Workers Memorial Day is right around the corner. It is also the anniversary of the enactment of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 which created the federal government agency known as OSHA - that pesky group of underappreciated, overworked and understaffed bureaucrats who do their best to ensure that workplaces are safe, the bosses properly train their employees and that the workers themselves work smarter, not harder. It's estimated that since its formation, OSHA has saved more than 70,000 lives, but still, every year, over 5,000 Americans go to work but never come home because of a tragic accident on the job. Most of these accidents could've been avoided, and as organized labor does its best to organize and influence the non-union, it is mostly the unorganized worker that dies at work. Simple things like Tailboards, Stand Downs, and Apprenticeship Training save lives - but not every worker is in a union, not every job is on OSHA's radar and not every municipality has Apprenticeship language. We are better off now as a workforce than we were in 1970, but there is still much work to be done.

Some of the unions in America are busy, bewildered and at times lack leadership with a vision for the future, but one thing remains constant for most of them; Safety. Hard working employees may roll their eyes when a Shop Steward constantly reminds them to throw on their hardhat, safety vest or back brace, but we all know why that Steward does that. A death and an accident on any job site, union or non, means that someone screwed up. When a death is involved, it's one of those things you just can't easily shake off. So when I had the privilege to attend a conference of union leaders that spanned 3 different states, I paid really close attention to how they opened up the 3-day meeting. First the Pledge of Allegiance; then a moment of silence for armed services serving overseas, then the accident and death reports from around the region.
You could hear a pin drop as union leaders described what happened. One after another. All eyes fixated on what was being said, what happened, how it happened, and how their union member is doing now. It was like an out-of-body experience for me. Realizing what I am a part of; a group of men and women who truly care about people who work for a living. As long as unions continue to exist, stopping workplace accidents and deaths is right and just, and worthy of our nation's thanks and recognition.

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