Workers’ Memorial Day is observed April 28 across the country to remember workers who lost their lives as a result of preventable injuries. The day is also a time to raise awareness of the hazards caused by exposure to asbestos, known to cause mesothelioma, lung cancer and other deadly respiratory diseases. Mesothelioma is just one of the many preventable diseases related to environmental hazards that some workers must face every day.
This year, Workers’ Memorial Day marks the 45th anniversary of the founding of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the federal agency whose mission is to protect workers from job-related injuries and diseases.
“When it comes to workplace fatalities and injuries, the only acceptable number is zero,” said David Michaels, the assistant secretary of labor for OSHA, in comments marking the day in 2015. “There is clearly still more work to be done, which is why we renew our commitment to worker safety and health every year on April 28.”
Workers in certain industries, such as the construction and the maritime industries, have a greater occurrence of asbestos-related disease than others. Insulators, plumbers and pipefitters, electricians, sheet metal workers, or construction workers involved in the remodeling, or demolition of old (pre-1970’s) buildings, are often the types of workers that contract the disease. With an extended latency period, many workers do not develop mesothelioma symptoms for decades after exposure.
According to the AFL-CIO 2016 Worker Safety and Health Factsheet, “On average, 13 workers were killed each day in 2014 from job-related injuries.” In addition, on an average day, more than 10,000 workers are injured or become ill because of workplace hazards, and 150 workers lose their lives as a result of workplace injuries and diseases, according to the article.
U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek H. Murthy said the following, about health hazards for workers who are exposed to asbestos, in an April 7 press release announcing National Asbestos Awareness Week:
“Because of its use in so many products, asbestos is still of special concern for anyone who works in construction – or who might be in a position to disturb asbestos found in older homes, buildings or equipment. The danger comes from inhaling the tiny fibers or dust released into the air once asbestos has been disturbed or damaged.
Workers who may be exposed to asbestos – including first responders and those involved in home repair or demolition projects – should protect themselves from asbestos exposure.”
Mesothelioma strikes close to 3,000 Americans each year. The more that people know about mesothelioma and asbestos, the more precautions that will be taken to protect future workers.
Take the time to remember those who have lost their fight to mesothelioma, and to help spread the word today that mesothelioma is a preventable disease.