Remembering Wisconsin Workplace Fatalities


Morgan Fuerstenberg graphic

International Workers’ Memorial Day, observed on April 28, is a day of remembrance for workers killed, injured or otherwise harmed while at work. It also serves to highlight the need for establishing and enabling safety procedures to ensure that workers are not harmed.

Governmental agencies and advocacy organizations alike gather in the forms of moments of silence, conferences and support groups to remember those who have passed, discussions about improvements for workplace safety and to provide for those who must cope with the loss of a family member or coworker.

The capstone national event, “Department of Labor’s Workers’ Memorial Day Program,” was a livestream on YouTube that provided “a candid conversation on the impact of losing a family member and coworker on the job by those left to grieve their loss,” per the program’s website.

The event was hosted by the Occupational Safety and Health administration, Mine Safety and Health administration and the Office of Workers’ Compensation programs.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, an agency of the U.S. Department of Labor, reported 4,764 work fatalities in 2020, down from the 5,333 fatalities in 2019.

Though national data is not yet available for 2021, Wisconsin reported 39 work fatalities.

In a press release about Workers’ Memorial Day, OSHA Madison Area director Chad Greenwood relayed the story of Jacob Dayton, a 20-year-old who passed away from work-related injuries in late February, 2021.

“As part of a three-person roofing crew repairing a leak at an industrial facility in LaCrosse, (Dayton) stepped on and fell through a skylight as he walked across the roof, and suffered fatal injuries.”

Greenwood confirmed that an official investigation found inadequate precautions provided by Dayton’s employer.

Stories similar to Dayton’s are found throughout the other Wisconsin cases as well as across the country.

Greenwood concluded, “As we mark another Workers’ Memorial Day, remember that no worker should ever have to risk their life in exchange for their paycheck. Also, remember that each of us has a role to play in making the workplace safe. We owe Jacob Dayton, and the tens of thousands of others we honor today, at least that much.