Next Worker Memorial Day:
Tuesday, April 28, 2020, at 2 p.m.
Honoring workers' service
The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries hosts a Worker Memorial Day ceremony each spring to honor those who have died in the previous year from job-related injuries or illnesses. Families of the fallen workers are invited to attend the service, which includes comments from speakers, a reading of the names of the workers who have died, and an outdoor portion where relatives are invited to ring a bell hanging in L&I's Worker Memorial Garden. The names of the workers are also entered into a Worker Memorial book, displayed in the agency's lobby.
What to expect
The ceremony at L&I's Tumwater campus begins with an indoor service in the auditorium. Every family member of a worker being honored at the service is invited to attend.
L&I employees will join the family members as part of the audience. Speakers typically include the director of L&I, representatives from labor organizations, the Washington business community, and businesses that self-insure. Past ceremonies have also included state governors or their representatives.
Their comments are followed by a reading of the names of all those being remembered at the ceremony, accompanied by the ringing of a bell, as photographs of the lost loved ones are shown on a screen.
The service is followed by an outdoor gathering around the Worker Memorial Day bell where relatives of the fallen workers are invited to chime the bronze bell in memory of their loved ones.
Past Worker Memorial Day Events
Many families of the fallen workers provide a photograph of their loved one for use in the service. Since 2010, families have also been invited to provide a few words about their loved one for use in a commemorative pamphlet.
History of Worker Memorial Day
A day honoring workers who have died from job-related injuries or illnesses has been observed in the United States since 1989, but prior to that date had already been observed in Canada for several years.
The original organizers chose April 28 as the date to observe the occasion because it is the anniversary of the official creation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and is the same date as Canada's remembrance. Today, Worker Memorial Day is observed around the world.
The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries has observed Worker Memorial Day since 1990 and, in 1993, began conducting a special ceremony to mark the day.
A book is maintained in the lobby of L&I's Tumwater building with the names of fallen workers added each year and, in 1998, a Worker Memorial Garden was dedicated on the Tumwater grounds.
In 2007, a brass bell sculpture by artist Tom Torrens, commissioned and donated by the Washington State Building and Construction Trades Council, was installed in the garden. L&I's Worker Memorial Day ceremony now includes family members ringing this bell.
While most Worker Memorial Day observances across the country are sponsored by labor groups, L&I is unique in being a state agency recognizing fallen workers. L&I's ceremony strives to provide a somber remembrance memorializing the workers who have died while at the same time reminding everyone that workplace safety can be a matter of life and death.
Other Worker Memorial Day Events in the State
April 24, 2019
Wednesday, April 24, 5 p.m.
Worker Memorial Park, Mission Courtyard, corner of Pacific and Wetmore
Sponsored by the Snohomish County Labor Council.
Wednesday, April 24, 11:30 a.m.
University of Washington Seattle Campus, Husky Union Building (HUB), Lyceum Room
For more details, contact Nancy Simcox at 206-221-7107.
April 27, 2019
Saturday, April 27, 11 a.m.
City of Spokane Mission Park (Mission and Perry)
Sponsored by the Spokane Regional Labor Council, AFL-CIO; for more information, call 509-327-7637.
April 29, 2019
Monday, April 29, noon
Bellingham Public Library Lawn
Sponsored by the Northwest Washington Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO; for more information, call 360-676-0099 or contact the Northwest Washington Central Labor Council.