Several hundred pay respects to workers killed on the job

PORTLAND, OR -- Several hundred Oregon workers walked through the streets of downtown Portland April 28 in a memorial "Parade of Prayers" for workers killed on the job. Among the marchers were family members of Iron Workers Union members Donn Soto, Christopher Rider and Bill Cosgrove.

Rider, Soto and Nicholas Colouzis of Seattle were killed in the collapse of a parking garage structure under construction at Portland International Airport last summer and Cosgrove died in a fall at Jesuit High School a year ago.

Following the march a memorial service was held at St. James Lutheran Church as part of the national Workers Memorial Day sponsored by the national AFL-CIO. Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber, Portland Mayor Vera Katz and Chair of the Multnomah County Commission Beverly Stein declared April 28 Workers Memorial Day.

At the church service the names of 47 Oregonians who died at work in 1997 through March 30, 1998, were read, followed by the raising of an American flag and the ringing of a bell for each person. Another 53 persons who died while at work in Oregon are considered confidential and their names would not be released by the state or federal government for the memorial.

Only those workers who had compensable workers' compensation insurance claims under the jurisdiction of the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Affairs (DCBS) are counted in the state's official job-related death toll.

Among the Oregon workers not listed were Colleen Waibel and Thomas Jeffries, two Portland police officers killed in the line of duty in 1997 and 1998.

The confidential listing consisted of 20 workers who were self-employed; 12 who died of a heart attack/aneurysm or cancer while at work; 10 listed as "unknown" as to why they were not on the state's compensable list; six out-of-state employees who died in Oregon accidents; two deferred (have not been accepted or denied by workers' comp); two not in the comp system yet; one federal claim; one city of Portland claim; one suicide; one accident that happened in 1969 and the worker died in 1997, and another who was shot at work by her husband.

The larger list of job fatalities is compiled by the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) through the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) and counts workers who died regardless of whether the death was caused by work-related factors or whether the worker was covered by Oregon workers' compensation. It does not include deaths from work-related illnesses. Since 1991 the State of Oregon has kept the two counts of fatalities, but has never released the higher BLS figures -- that is until this year.

For the first time ever, DCBS released statistics to the media last month, stating that its "preliminary numbers show that a total of 82 people died from injuries while on the job in Oregon during 1997, down slightly from 85 in 1996."

Forty-three fatalities were subject to state workers' compensation coverage, down from 54 fatalities in 1996, the release said.

The April 17 issue of the Northwest Labor Press reported that 100 workers died while at work in 1997, with 44 compensable under the state workers' comp system. The Labor Press obtained the names of deceased individuals recorded on the confidential CFOI list, in addition to DCBS' accepted fatalities list.

The national AFL-CIO chose April 28 as Workers Memorial Day because it is the anniversary of the creation of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act in 1971.

Among those attending the Workers Memorial Day service was Peter DeLuca, administrator of the Oregon-Occupational Safety and Health Administration.


May 1, 1998 issue

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