Remembering fallen colleagues underscores importance of workplace safety

April 18, 2019

This piece is presented by Howalt+McDowell Insurance, a Marsh & McLennan Agency LLC company.

It’s something most of us take for granted every day: We go to work, and we return home safely.

Last year, five South Dakotans didn’t have that chance.

Workers’ Memorial Day is observed every year in April. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, it is a day to honor those workers who have died on the job, to acknowledge the grievous suffering experienced by families and communities, and to recommit ourselves to the fight for safe and healthful workplaces for all workers.

South Dakota participated in the annual event for the first time last year.

“It was powerful, and it’s one small way we can honor those who encountered tragedy in the workplace,” said Terry Lively, employer services safety and compliance manager at Howalt+McDowell Insurance.

“It’s also a reminder of the responsibility we all share to recognize the dangers that are inherent in the workplace, to teach and follow safety precautions and to look out for one another. We’re honored to help underscore that message again this year.”

The public is encouraged to join in honoring those workers’ lives lost in South Dakota and answer the call to action for ongoing awareness of workplace safety.

“It is important to the families and the community to honor the men and women whose lives were cut short due to a workplace incident,” said Sheila Stanley, OSHA area director in Sioux Falls. “It is our obligation to learn from these unfortunate occurrences and to do all we can to prevent them from happening in the future.”

Josh Hejl, a superintendent at Journey Group, will share a personal experience in the workplace he hopes encourages others to act with care.

Hejl’s friend was killed 14 years ago in a workplace accident.

“This isn’t just another story about a workplace accident. This is a story about a husband, a brother, a son, a friend,” Hejl said.

“Every single person you come across on a daily basis and steps on your work site isn’t just another citizen, employee or co-worker or subcontractor. They have people in their lives that need them to come home every single night — not only living but with their eyes, fingers, arms and legs. We need to live more relationally and look out for what really matters. I hope by sharing this personal story it can inspire people to look at one another differently and act with care.”

The Workers’ Memorial Day event in South Dakota is the result of multiple partners coming together. In addition to the Region VIII Occupational Safety and Health Administration, they include Howalt+McDowell Insurance, a Marsh & McLennan Agency LLC company; Safety Solutions; South Dakota Safety Council, Associated General Contractors of South Dakota; Home Builders Association of the Sioux Empire; South Dakota Trucking Association; RAS; and the city of Sioux Falls.

The Workers’ Memorial Day event will feature the Sioux Falls Fire Rescue and Police Departments Honor Guard, Tom Parliman playing bagpipes, a moment of silence for each of the fallen workers being honored and a call to action for those in attendance to recognize that we’re not done making our workplaces safe yet.

If you go

What: Workers’ Memorial Day

When: 3 to 4 p.m. April 24

Where: Sertoma Park Pavilion

If an ADA accommodation is needed, please contact Lori Kiesow at 605-339-3874 at least 72 hours before the event.

Remembering fallen colleagues underscores importance of workplace safety

It’s something most of us take for granted every day: We go to work, and we return home safely. Last year, five South Dakotans didn’t have that chance. An event next week will remember them and remind all of us about workplace safety.

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