As the tragic death last week of Irish-born Trevor Loftus shows again construction workers have always had the plurality of workplace deaths.
Of the 4,405 persons killed in 2013, 796 were construction workers. The Federal government states 12 workers are killed every day in the United States. As a chaplain who has presided over many funerals for construction workers, I state that two construction workers die every day on the worksite in the United States.
In 1989, April 28 was designated as Workers’ Memorial Day to direct attention to workers who have been killed or injured on the job. This date was chosen to coincide with the formal introduction of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA.)
Many community groups, employers and especially construction worker unions show solidarity with their fallen brethren on this Day of Mourning. In recent years, April 28 has been proclaimed as International Workers Memorial Day where services for deceased workers are observed around the globe.
March 15, 2008 was a turning point in New York City. A crane collapse on Second Avenue and 50th Street resulted in in the deaths of six union construction workers and a female visitor from Miami, FL. That tragic day marked the most deaths of construction workers since 61 of them died on September 11, 2001 in the Twin Towers. As a direct result of this tragedy, union construction workers met with developers, contractors, the local offices of OSHA, the Department of Buildings to help plan and promote the Annual Hardhat Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
At this Hardhat Mass, all those killed on a construction site in New York City are remembered and revered. Chairs are placed in front to the altar with a hardhat and a rose to signify each one who died from April 28 of the previous year till April 28 of the current year. At the end of Mass, a hardhat and rose are given to the family members of the deceased.
The Cathedral is packed not only with union construction workers but all those from the construction industry who are united on that day to honor our beloved dead. They include family members and friends of the deceased; employers such as contractors and developers; key government agencies together with concerned clergy and religious. The Annual Hardhat Mass is normally celebrated on or near the date of April 28th in conjunction with International Workers’ Memorial Day.
To date, 18 construction workers have been killed on the job since April 28, 2014. Unfortunately, the majority are non-union workers. The majority of non-union workers killed or injured on the job were undocumented Latinos with little or no safety training. At this Annual Hardhat Mass, all the deceased are remembered regardless of their status. This Memorial Mass emphasizes the dignity of each human person. They are not forgotten in our sacred industry for all human life is precious.
I ask New York State to please remember and pray for construction workers every day. They are the faithful workers who build our schools, hospitals, roads, bridges, office buildings and even our homes. Recall that two construction workers die every day in the United States. That is the highest rate of any other profession nationwide.
Please do not forget their daily sacrifices. Please remember that construction work is a necessary and noble profession for our Empire State and the rest of the world.
May they rest in peace.