April 23, 2018
Workers’ Memorial Day is the annual commemoration of people who have been killed on the job. This year a joint Southern Tier event was sponsored by the Midstate Council for Occupational Safety and Health and the Binghamton based Occupational Health Clinical Center and the Broome Tioga Labor Council.
Eight workers were killed on the job in the eight county areas that Midstate COSH trains workers/supervisors and advocates for safety and health on the job. This is a similar number as the previous year. Two of this past year’s fatalities occurred at Weisman facilities in Owego; one when a yardman walking across a yard was struck and killed by a front end loader and the second when a dump tractor-trailer driver was killed when a second loaded dump which was in the air tipped over and crushed him in his cab. OSHA’s investigations of both of these fatalities are still ongoing. The day before the first of these fatalities, on June 22, 2017, Weitsman had been convicted of 5 serious OHSA violations and fined $31,690. These infractions, resulted from a March 3, 2017 inspection, involved the leakage and spills of flammable and combustible liquids. Two other of the last year’s fatalities involved vehicle incidents; vehicle fatalities continue to be one of the highest areas of fatalities nationwide, in the transportation, construction and agriculture industries.
The organizations held a musical event with labor musicians George Mann and the duo Magpie, Terry Leonino and Greg Artzner, members of the Musicians’ Union Local 1000. Magpie’s musical range is from tradition and vintage Americana to contemporary and stirring original compositions. George Mann, a former union organizer, sings songs from the labor and social activist tradition. The evening honored workers killed on the job by singing, listening to music and sharing about the safety and health hazards at our various workplaces. The event was held at the Sarah Jane Johnson Memorial United Church in Johnson City.
The event was moderately attended, although local organizers reported that it was double their usual Workers Memorial Day attendance. Between the second and third sets, there was a speak-out where audience members were encouraged to share stories of H&S issues in their workplace. This was quite educational for everyone involved.
Funds raised at the event went to the United Support Memorial Workplace Fatalities, which is the national organization supporting families of workers killed on the job. The USMWF is a powerful voice for families who have lost loved ones. Most often, these fatalities occur during incidents that could have been prevented by more attention to safety precautions.