President's statement on Workers' Memorial Day

Editor's Note: The following statement was issued by BLE International President Don M. Hahs:

On Sunday, April 28, locomotive engineers will join other workers across the nation to commemorate the many people who have lost their lives while at work by observing Workers' Memorial Day.

Each day in this country thousands of workers are killed or injured on the job. None of these injuries or deaths need to happen. Our goal is zero tolerance for work place injuries. We should be outraged at the way that many of these incidents occur.

On a terrible day last September, we lost thousands of our brothers and sisters. These workers, both the organized and the unorganized, went to work that day and they did not get to go home. This incident provoked a great sense of outrage, but all workplace deaths provoke outrage.

Since 1996, the BLE has lost 25 of its members to accidents in the workplace. Most recently, Charles B. "Charlie" Smith, 35, was killed as he boarded his Norfolk Southern freight train just north of the Edgemore freight yard in Delaware on March 21. He was local chairman of BLE Division 484 in Delmar, Del. His death and all the others provoke a sense of outrage.

After falling for the last decade, railroad-related deaths are now on the rise. Our goal of zero tolerance for deaths in the industry needs to be realized. The industry has paid lip service to safety over the years, and they need to put less effort into profits and more effort into safety.

We also need to remember that many of the injuries that occur at work are not of the sudden, catastrophic kind such as the ones mentioned above. Over a million workers per year are stricken with repetitive stress and strain injuries, including many in the transportation industry. The government needs to protect workers from these highly preventable injuries by enforcing stricter guidelines for employers.

While we have the technology to make the railroads and other industries safer, the companies have made the decision to favor economics over safety. Safety improvements, such as positive train control and ergonomically designed locomotive cabs, cost money, and it seems the companies of this nation have chosen profits over people.

On this Workers' Memorial Day, we should redouble our efforts to make work a safe place for everyone. No worker should ever go to work at the beginning of the day and not get to go home. No family should ever lose a loved one in an accident that is preventable. Workers should never lose their livelihood to a preventable workplace injury. Zero tolerance for workplace injuries should be the way that we remember and commemorate those fallen brothers and sisters.

In the line of duty...

BLE members killed on the job since 1996:

Charles B. "Charlie" Smith

Mike W. Hoover

T.O. "Tom" Landris

Raymond J. St. Marie

D.E. Nichols Jr.

Wayne Connor

Yvan Theriault

Paul Davis

R. A. Oertwig

Carl Finzel

Don Blain

Kevin Lihou

Roger H. Bell

Debbie Dickerson

David Butler

J.L. "Joe" King

R.W. Adams

Michael E. Brown

Kelvin N. Winters

William B. Smith, Jr.

Tom L. Shay

Jake Elder

J.M. Roybal

Ricky M. Orr

Alfonso S. DeBonis


© 2002 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers