The number is large and startling: 150. That’s how many North Carolina workers lost their lives while on the job in the state in 2015.
The state branch of the AFL-CIO recently held a workers’ memorial event at the State Capitol. A bell tolled for each victim as family members and friends held aloft photos of their loved ones who lost their lives while working.
One of the victims died in a scaffolding collapse in Raleigh. Another died in a tank accident in Goldsboro.
That man’s wife was at the memorial, telling a TV news reporter that “it’s important just to remember these men.” Her husband was just 33 when he died.
“I think we can all get behind workplace safety and making sure that the events that caused this accident don’t happen again,” his wife said. “It was something that was totally preventable.”
Preventable tragedies are, of course, the most difficult for grieving friends and family to cope with.
The North Carolina AFL-CIO says the state’s Department of Labor must increase efforts to make workplaces across the state safer, compelling employers to provide more safety instructions to workers and hiring more inspectors to look for existing risks. The union also wants employers who are repeat violators of safety regulations and laws to receive stiffer fines.
The department released a statement saying it is working “to reduce injuries, illnesses and fatalities.”
The union pointed out that the labor commissioner declined to even attend the memorial. A spokesperson said the commissioner was unable to attend because she was here in Charlotte observing worker safety achievements.