Emotional Candlelight Vigil Held to Honor Workers Lost on the Job

December 21, 2016

Emotional Candlelight Vigil Held to Honor Workers Lost on the Job
Families Shared Stories How Their Loss has Affected Them, Advocates Called on Elected Officials to do more to Protect Workers
BOSTON              Yesterday afternoon, over 70 family members of workers killed on the job and worker rights advocates gathered on the Massachusetts State House steps to remember their fallen loved ones and friends killed on the job. The candlelight vigil was organized by labor groups to highlight the fact that dangerous jobs are still shattering families and that more can be done to protect workers.
One by one, family members addressed the crowd.
 “He loved his job, in the years he was down here, he was here long enough to have known some of the guys who met their deaths on the job,” said Mona Morse, mother of fallen worker Ronald Morse III. “Lord knows I never thought it would happen to us. I miss him terribly.”
“My father has missed many great events, such as my wedding and the birth of my two children,” said Tracy Teal, daughter of Joseph McWilliams, who was killed on the job in 2006. “He misses every milestone, and every major event …we no long have our father to help us. Too many times I put the TV on and there has been another tragedy that was completely preventable and many families all too often lose a loved one in a horrific way.”
“… I’m afraid of what’s going to happen to organizations such as OSHA,” said Edward Long Sr., father of Edward Long, who was killed on the job when he fell from a scaffold on the job. “…we really have to fight for the safety of our brothers and sisters.”
“On October 22, 2013, our daughter tragically lost her life at Danvers High School,” read a statement from the parents of Colleen Ritzer, a teacher who lost her life on the job to workplace violence. “In addition to carrying on Colleen’s legacy of being a caring and compassionate teacher, one of our goals is to help improve teachers’ safety in Massachusetts so that another family does not endure the pain we face each day.”
Families and organized labor leaders stressed that too many families will be without a loved one this holiday season, including the Scott family, who recently lost David Scott, killed in a Braintree work accident this past Thursday, Dec. 15. Advocates – echoing Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s belief that workplace fatalities, injuries, and illnesses are preventable – used the upcoming holidays to show the human cost of unsafe jobs. Using OSHA figures, from 2006 to 2016, MassCOSH estimates in Massachusetts alone, over 5,590 families have suffered losing a loved one due to occupational injury and disease.
Families and labor leaders also called on elected officials to institute further workplace protections to help stem this needless loss of life, including passing An Act to further define Standards of Employee Safety (Senate, No. 2190).
Currently, Massachusetts private sector and executive branch workers are covered under federal OSHA, but the law for other public employees is vague, causing widespread confusion about whether OSHA measures are required. If passed, the bill would clearly require all public agencies operating in Massachusetts to comply with federal health and safety regulations, helping to save workers’ lives.