Ruble: Reflection on those we have lost | Workers’ Compensation News
Through Megan Ruble
Wednesday May 12, 2021 | 0
April 28 marked the 50th anniversary of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. This law created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which revolutionized workplace safety through the determined efforts of the labor movement.
For the first time, workers have the right to a safe workplace. In those first 50 years, the number of workplace fatalities, injuries and illnesses has been drastically reduced.
However, progress has slowed. Nationally, workplace death rates have leveled off. The workplace is still too dangerous. Workplace injuries and fatalities disproportionately impact workers of color, who are more likely to work in hazardous occupations.
Every year on this anniversary, we honor those injured or killed on the job on Workers’ Remembrance Day and reflect on the toll of hazardous work.
Over the past year, through the COVID-19 pandemic, the high cost to essential workers in California has reminded us of the work that remains to be done for worker safety.
A study by the UC Merced Community and Labor Center looked at the effect of the pandemic on California workers in high-risk industries. Workers in 10 industries saw an increase in deaths of more than 30% in 2020.
Warehouse workers, food chain workers, agricultural workers and food processing workers have recorded the highest increases in pandemic-related deaths.
Industries that show the highest increases in fatalities tend to have a higher rate of immigrant or non-citizen workers. Often these workers live in larger multi-family households. They earn lower wages and experience much higher poverty rates.
Despite these grim statistics, dozens of organizations worked tirelessly during the pandemic to provide resources and support to the most vulnerable populations.
The Oakland-based Street Level Health Project provides services to immigrant communities to ensure equitable access to health care for uninsured and underinsured people. During the pandemic, their team took to the streets to provide food, personal protective equipment and immunization updates, including one-on-one assistance to day laborers and their families.
The California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative is a grassroots organization that works on the social issues facing its low-income, mostly female, Vietnamese immigrant workforce. The collaboration provided extensive information in English and Vietnamese to salon workers. It meets and trains workers and has supported and educated them across significant language and technology barriers throughout the pandemic.
The full list of the incredible work of these organizations is available here.
Over the past 50 years, OSHA and the work of many organizations have improved the safety and conditions of countless workers. But if we remember those who lost their lives or were injured on the job, we must recognize the inequalities that place the poorest and most marginalized workers in the most dangerous jobs, and we must continue to fight for safer working conditions.
Modesto’s candidate attorney, Megan Ruble, is secretary of the executive committee of the California Association of Candidates’ Advocates. This notice is republished, with permission, from the ACPA website.