Workers Memorial Day honors Iowans that died in workplace accidents

Published: Apr. 26, 2019 at 4:22 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

An event took place in Iowa City Friday that organizers wish they would never have to hold again; it was a memorial service to honor people who have died in workplace accidents from the past year.

On Monday, a worker fell to his death at a construction site in downtown Cedar Rapids. 47 year old Michael Patterson of Norwalk fell off a beam while helping to renovate United Fire Group's office building.

Patterson will seemingly be honored at next year's event, but organizers are hoping to reach a point the number of workplace accidents in the state will reach zero.

Heads hung to the sound of the trumpet playing "Taps," as a standing-room only group remembered the 26 people that died in workplace accidents in 2018. Stories and backgrounds were read by volunteers of all 26 people, as the room responded with "gone, but not forgotten" in unison after each brief biography was read.

"I think we're just trying to make people aware that sometimes people go to work and they don't make it back home," said Greg Hearns, the President of the Iowa City Federation of Labor, who organized the annual event. "We think that's not right and we think that needs to be corrected."

"Nearly every occupational fatality is preventable," said Brandi Janssen, the Director for the Iowa Center for Agricultural Safety and Health. "You have to take the time, you have to plan for it. Every industry is responsible, they're responsible for their workers. And none of these deaths that we're talking about today should have ever happened."

People shared stories, concern, and challenges they face in their respective workplaces. All of them pleading for their safety to be taken further into consideration.

"We have a lot of science and evidence on how to make a workplace safe," Janssen said. "There's no reason not to enact those practices."

Workers asked public officials for change- changes they want to see before the list of names continues to grow.

"I usually say every year I hope this is the last year that we have to do this," Hearns said. "But I know that's not reality."

Workers Memorial Day falls every April 28, the anniversary of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.