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Memorials to honor 53 Iowans killed in work-related mishaps last year

Rod Boshart, CR Gazette –

DES MOINES – State and local dignitaries, family members and others will gather around Iowa over the next two days to mark the passing of 53 Iowans who lost their lives while working – including 10 who died while serving their country in the military.

Worker memorial services have been scheduled for Friday and Saturday to honor Iowans who were killed, injured or disabled from exposure in the workplace as part of an international day of remembrance that coincides with the anniversary of the United States’ Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) becoming law in 1971. The ages of Iowa victims of workplace accidents ranged from 17 to 78.

“We still regrettably are killing way too many workers,” said Ken Sagar, president of the Iowa Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO.

“I don’t know what an acceptable number of people to be killed on the job is. I guess my number is zero but we just can’t seem to get to that number,” he added. “I’d like to have a worker memorial day where we’re not remembering names carved in a cross. I’d like to have a worker memorial day where we recognize the fact that we’ve made the necessary investments and that people aren’t dying to make a living.”

Included in the 2011 list were two victims of job-related homicides – Ashley Okland, 27, a real estate agent killed last April while working at a model home in West Des Moines whose murder remains unsolved, and Sgt. Eric Stein, 39, a Keokuk County sheriff’s deputy who was shot and killed by Jeff Krier, 53, during an incident at Krier’s rural Sigourney home.

Eight of the deceased Iowans who will be honored during an observance near the state Capitol officiated by Gov. Terry Branstad, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds and state Labor Commissioner Michael Mauro were soldiers who died while serving in Afghanistan.

The largest number of fatalities involved separate work-related vehicle accidents. Another six victims died due to falls from a wind turbine, a roof, an end loader and through a skylight, while five workers were crushed in accidents involving a door, a tree, a brick wall, a pickup and a pay loader bucket.

Three people died from injuries caused by equipment with augers, two victims were killed in accidents involving trains, two others died in fire-related mishaps and one person was hit in the neck with a flying piece of metal, according to data from Iowa Workforce Development officials.

IWD spokeswoman Kerry Koonce said state and federal OSHA officials highlighted a concern regarding an increase in accidents involving grain elevators and equipment. “Unfortunately, by and large, construction is the general area where you have the most accidents,” she said.

Koonce noted that workforce safety is a shared responsibility.

“It’s a combination of enforcement – doing your regular inspections – and companies using the consultation services that are available to them, which helps them redefine safety issues so they can better address some of the needs, and it requires workers to follow the safety regulations that are laid out by their companies. So it’s something that really has to be a joint effort by everyone,” she said.

Mauro called it a day to “reflect on the lives that were lost and to renew our commitment to safe and healthy workplaces for all Iowans.”

Sagar said this year’s observance will hit home for him, having lost his brother-in-law Robert Wisman, 30, in a work-related accident. “It’ll be a difficult speech to give this year,” he said.

Work-related deaths in Iowa

Calendar year Deaths

2011 53

2010 51

2009 48

2008 68

2007 48

2006 44

Source: Iowa Workforce Development

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I think this is a good way of remembering the ones lost in work related accidents, I was very disappointed in the way it was held locally, the union used it for the benefit to push their agenda and they couldn’t even stand when they rang the bell for the fallen.
The one they had in Des Moines was very heart warming and they made you feel like they cared. I hope they continue.

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