A solemn ceremony in Tumwater Tuesday honored the 66 people who died in Washington last year on the job or from workplace injuries or illness. AWB joined Gov. Jay Inslee and representatives of organized labor in pledging to keep improving workplace safety until there comes a year when no one dies on the job.
Speaking to the families and friends of those who went to work and never came home, Inslee said the state honors their loss. "You need to know we embrace you today," Inslee said, noting that he has personally felt the loss of a family member -- a cousin who died while working for the King County Sheriff's Office.
The governor called for a renewed culture of safety. He thanked the business community for its work in making workplaces safer. "We're not perfect yet," Inslee said. "We're ahead of the curve, but we have work to do."
This was the 20th annual memorial for those who died on the job. AWB President Don Brunell, who attended Washington's first such ceremony in 1993, noted that his upcoming retirement means this will be his last. As he addressed a packed room at L&I headquarters, he offered condolences to the families of those who died.
"At the end of the day, we want a safer workplace where people come home every night to their loved ones," Brunell said. His own father, a volunteer firefighter, nearly died after being hit with a live wire during a call in Montana, Brunell said, adding that recent events have shown that even school teachers can be in the line of fire.
Jeff Johnson, president of the Washington State Labor Council, told the crowd that every worker's compensation claim is a missed opportunity for injury prevention and said we all have "a moral obligation to make work as safe as it can possibly be."
Four members of the Washington State Patrol in formal blue uniforms -- one with a ceremonial sword -- honored the workers who died. Bagpipers played "Amazing Grace" as firefighters from Tumwater rang a silver bell in honor of those who died.
L&I Director Joel Sacks said the ceremony is a reminder that we can never take workplace safety for granted. Sacks noted that Washington's ceremony is unusual in that it includes wide represenatation -- from labor, business and government.
"Each and every day we have to recommit ourselves to preventing workplace safety," Sacks said.