Tumwater, WA – A firefighter who died after years of chemical exposure on the job, a construction worker buried by a trench collapse, a security guard killed when a vehicle crashed through his booth, and a home healthcare worker who was shot and killed by the grandson of his patient were among the 129 workers honored at the Washington Department of Labor & Industries’ (L&I) 2023 Worker Memorial Day Ceremony.
This year’s state observance took place Thursday, April 27th at L&I’s headquarters building in Tumwater.
Governor Jay Inslee, L&I Director Joel Sacks, and representatives from the Washington State Labor Council, the Association of Washington Business, and Kids’ Chance Washington all spoke at the ceremony. People were invited to attend in person and the event was also be streamed live.
Construction incidents, chemical exposure and vehicle crashes lead workplace deaths
Ninety-four of the workers being remembered during the ceremony died in 2022. The remaining 35 passed away before last year and were not included in previous ceremonies.
“Job-related injuries and deaths are a sobering reminder of the importance of workplace safety,” said Director Sacks. “This ceremony is a recommitment of government, business and labor to do everything possible to increase safety in every business and on every job site. No one should have to endure losing a friend, family member or loved on at work.”
Construction continues to be the most dangerous industry, claiming 32 lives. That’s ten more than the previous year. Exposure to toxic chemicals and jobs that require driving were also connected to numerous workplace deaths, with 26 and 19 fatalities, respectively. Thirteen workplace deaths were from COVID-19 in 2022. On-the-job homicides rose sharply, from four in 2021 to 11 in 2022.
“The best way to honor fallen workers is to focus on preventing these tragedies from happening in the first place—to encourage employers and workers to ‘walk the talk’ by creating a workplace culture centered around safety,” said Sacks.
During the ceremony, the names of the workers who died were read, accompanied by bell ringers from the Washington State Council of Fire Fighters. After the ceremony, families were invited to ring the brass bell in the Worker Memorial garden on the grounds of L&I’s headquarters.
This is the 30th time L&I has held the annual Worker Memorial Day ceremony. It’s one of many events in April honoring fallen workers across the nation.
View the recording of the ceremony:
Source: WA L&I