On October 12, 2011, 16-year-old Armando Ramirez and his 22-year-old brother Heladio were cleaning out a storm water drain at a recycling facility. Heladio saw his brother collapse and went down the eight-foot hole to save him. Without proper protection, the brothers died from breathing hydrogen sulfide.
A telecommunications technician for 30 years, Brent Robinson was out sick most of the week before September 2. He returned to work outdoors in sweltering 100-105° heat and again felt ill. His request to go home was denied, and he died at a grocery store waiting for medical personnel.
These and other stories are profiled in Dying at Work in California: The Hidden Stories Behind the Numbers. Produced by Worksafe and the Southern California Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (SoCalCOSH), it will be released in advance of Workers Memorial Day, April 28, 2012.
The report tallies the cost of job-related deaths, injuries, and illnesses, features first-person accounts of efforts to protect worker health and safety on the job, and offers recommendations for a path forward.
“It’s obviously important for worker advocates to honor the memories of those we’ve lost, and a crucial part of that tribute is to prevent similar tragedies from happening again,” says Gail Bateson, Worksafe Executive Director. “That’s why Worksafe and SoCalCOSH fight both for the basic rights of workers to health and safety on the job, as well as effective federal and state programs to safeguard those rights.”
Workers Memorial Day spotlights these issues. On April 28, SoCalCOSH and a broad cross-section of the community will gather at the UCLA Downtown Labor Center. A day earlier, Worksafe will host an event at the Oakland Asian Cultural Center with families of killed and injured workers, their representatives, and numerous special guests.
Lisa Dickerson, a retired construction equipment operator, is one of the workers. “I was lucky to survive a near-fatal fall when my haul truck flipped over an embankment and fell 100 feet due to unsafe conditions at work. It is so important to make sure that workers’ health and safety is a priority so we don’t have to risk our lives just to make a living.”
Juliana Martinez, whose husband Antonio fell four stories to his death on Jan. 16, 2008, agrees: “My husband was not protected by his employers, because they were breaking the law. It is so important to make sure workers’ health and safety come first.”
Copies of the report will be available at both events, and a digital version is available here: http://bit.ly/dyingatwork2012
Worksafe is a California-based nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting people from job-related hazards and empowering them to advocate for the right to a safe and healthy workplace. For more information, contact Executive Director Gail Bateson at 510-302-1011 or visit www.worksafe.org.
SoCalCOSH is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to educate, advocate, and mobilize workers, community members, and policymakers to create safe and healthy workplaces in Southern California. For more information, contact Coordinator Shirley Alvarado-del Aguila at 213-346-3277 or visit www.socalcosh.org.