Walz pushes safety measures on Worker Memorial Day

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Wednesday, Gov. Tim Walz and state leaders held a ceremony for Worker Memorial Day, remembering those who’ve died on the job while bringing attention to workplace safety.

"Over the past year, workplace safety has taken on new meaning as essential workers put their lives on the line to support Minnesota through COVID-19," Walz said. "Today we recommit ourselves to the hard work of ensuring that workplaces across Minnesota are safe, because every worker deserves to know that they will return safely at the end of every day. To those who have lost families and friends over the past year, Gwen and I offer our deepest condolences."

Walz has proposed additional funding for the Minnesota Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MNOSHA) to be able to hire additional safety inspectors. The governor has also wanted state law changed so OSHA citation data would be public and penalties could be increased for failure to conform to federal requirements.

"Today, as we remember and mourn those who have lost their lives on the job, we reaffirm that every worker is entitled to a safe and healthy workplace that is free of hazards. A safe workplace isn’t a privilege, it’s every workers’ right," Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry Commissioner Roslyn Robertson said. "As the pandemic has highlighted, OSHA’s mission is as important now as it has ever been in the agency’s 50-year history."

"We work hard to ensure that all our workers can do their jobs and return home safely at the end of the day, but we need the cooperation and attention of motorists," Minnesota Department of Transportation Commissioner Margaret Anderson Kelliher added. "Slow down, stay alert and avoid distractions in work zones. All Minnesotans share in the responsibility of ensuring safety on our roadways."

Since 1960, 35 MnDOT workers and 16 contractors have lost their lives while working on Minnesota highways, MnDOT said.

The Interstate 35W Bridge in Minneapolis will be lit orange in honor of Worker Memorial Day on Wednesday.

MnDOT also offered the following reminders for all travelers to follow in work zones:

• Stay alert; work zones constantly change due to lane shifts, closures and moving workers and vehicles.
• Watch for signs, equipment and workers.
• Minimize distractions behind the wheel.
• Avoid tailgating.
• Slow down. Follow posted speed limits and directional signs.
• Be patient; expect delays, especially during peak travel times.

Worker Memorial Day has been recognized on April 28 since 1989. Click here to see the list of fallen workers in Minnesota and the worker memorial at MnDOT headquarters.