Helping The Story Continue

Sharing the gift of continuing education as a way to honor those who have been impacted by workplace fatalities

April 27, 2023 | By GTPE Communications
Hard hat sitting on a bench with background that is out of focus. Worker's Memorial Day and the GT logo is featured in text at the top.

Each year at the end of April, Workers Memorial Day is observed to remember workers who have been killed while on the job or suffered a fatal occupational illness or disease. First established in 1970, the day honors those who have lost their lives and whose families and communities have lost spouses, children, siblings, friends, and coworkers. This also spreads awareness about workplace incidents in an effort to educate workers and employers and encourage stronger implementation and enforcement of safety measures in the workplace.

Workplace fatalities and accidents do not just affect the lives and financial future of the workers themselves but of their families as well.  In 2021, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 5,190 fatal work injuries; almost a 9% increase over 2020. Although workplace incidents may seem rare, that’s an average of 14 American workers per day.  

“When the OSH Act was passed in 1970, the foundation for measurable progress in worker safety and health was laid, and workplaces today are thankfully much safer than they were for our parents and grandparents," said Hilarie Warren, director of the Georgia Tech OSHA Training Institute Education Center (OTIEC).  "But some of the same hazards still exist, and new ones are emerging as technology changes, and workforces grow, shrink and shift."

Supporting the Kids’ Chance Scholarship  

For years, the Georgia Tech OTIEC has donated to Kids’ Chance of Georgia by contributing a full program certificate in either construction or general industry safety and health to the silent auction held at the annual Georgia Safety, Health, and Environmental Conference. "It is important to us to keep championing for each worker to know their right to return home safe and healthy every day,” says Warren. "We see it as a way to honor those we have lost, while also safeguarding the future."

Kids’ Chance is a non-profit that provides scholarships to children whose parent has suffered a severe or fatal accident at work. These scholarships allow students to pursue higher level education, even if their families must spend money on medical bills or can no longer work in the same capacity.  

The proceeds from the silent auction support Kids’ Chance scholarships provided to families that have been impacted by a parent’s work-related injury or death; Georgia was the first Kids’ Chance charity established in the country and has raised over $6M since their creation in 1988. 

The 2022 silent auction winning bid was placed by Dave Mehlrose, Regional Safety Manager at Allison-Smith Company. Since he had previously achieved a Construction Safety Certificate from Georiga Tech, he gifted the opportunity to Joseph McManigal, a safety professional on his team. McManigal is well on his way to earning the certificate thanks to the commitment of his employer to growing their safety culture, and their continued support for the Kids’ Chance program. 

Mehlrose himself has also taken several additional courses since earning his certificate. “It’s all about the education, and that’s why I choose to continue my professional development through Georgia Tech — they provide the best safety training classes.” 

Looking Forward

Things like the Kids’ Chance Scholarships and a Worker Memorial Day serve as an important reminder of why workplace safety needs to be a priority. Participating in ongoing professional education that teaches you how to increase workplace safety in your own organization is a way to honor those that have been lost and help protect those you work with today and into the future.

“Often, when people think of workplace safety or OSHA, they think of rules or laws or things that get in the way of production," says Warren. “We must remember those rules were written as a result of immeasurable loss. They were established because every year, thousands of Americans died just going to work. Every one of those workers left family, loved ones, and a community behind. They left a story unfinished, but the Kids’ Chance scholarships provide an opportunity for these children and families to write another chapter.”  

More information about Kids’ Chance and how to donate is available here