RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Families in North Carolina are remembering loved ones who lost their lives on the job, and pushing for more regulations regarding workplace safety.
A bell sounded 179 times outside the state capitol building Friday morning, honoring each life lost on the job in 2021 — the most recent year for which the full death toll is known.
Jadiera Caraballo was one of many people who gathered there for Workers Memorial Day, also known as the anniversary of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. The day calls for better workplace safety.
Caraballo’s son, Derek Carrero, was one of the 179 who died after a workplace incident in 2021.
“A forklift unfortunately hit him in the head…he never came back home after that,” she said. “I don’t want more families to go through the pain that I’m going through right now.”
“Too many workers are dying needlessly from occupational diseases, industrial accidents and workplace violence,” Marybe McMillan said, the President of the NC State AFL-CIO labor union.
She said more needs to be done to protect workers.
“Hiring more workplace compliance officers, they play an important role in workplace safety. Investigating accidents, identifying hazards before accidents happen,” McMillan said. “We also need to make sure that workers have the training and the safety equipment they need to do their jobs properly, so education is a big piece of workplace safety.”
She said she also wants to see more bilingual staff, because immigrant workers are at a much higher risk of workplace injury and death.
“This is no time to rest or stop,” Josh Dobson, the North Carolina Commissioner of Labor, said during the press conference. “There is still much work to be done, and I need your help.”
He also called for higher workplace safety violation penalties, to prevent more death and heartache.
“My son was amazing. He did everything to help me,” Caraballo said. “Only thing I’ve got to say is, make sure that people get out of work the same way they come to work. Follow the safety rules, regulations. Do not rush. At the end of the day, the job is going to be done.”
Derek’s father, Rafael Carrero, said Derek was a “momma’s boy” who loved Star Wars.
He described him as “our everything.”
“You shouldn’t go to work at a factory with the fear that you’re not going to come back,” Carrero said. “There should be regulations. There should be safety measures and more checks and balances put in place to mitigate those factors.”
The President of the NC State AFL-CIO labor union said anyone who sees a hazard in their workplace should contact the North Carolina Department of Labor to let them know.
To report a workplace accident, click here.