WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today attended a hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee entitled, "Putting Safety First: Strengthening Enforcement and Creating a Culture of Compliance at Mines and Other Dangerous Workplaces."

At the hearing, Brown read the following statement:

Tomorrow is Workers' Memorial Day - a day to honor the working women and men killed, disabled, injured, or made ill by their work - as well as a day to remind us of the struggle for economic and social justice. The workplace protections we have are the product of workers fighting for improvements in workplace safety to reduce the number of future accidents. The fight always continues.

In my state of Ohio, in 2008 alone, 167 workers died on the job, and nearly 119,000 injury claims were filed with the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation.

Just this past weekend in West Virginia, a community grieved the loss of 29 brothers, fathers and sons after a tragic mine explosion earlier this month.

Almost 35 years ago, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) was created - after a deadly explosion in a Kentucky mine - to prevent tragedies like the one in West Virginia.

This nation has a history of responding to tragedy with improved systems and policies to prevent further catastrophes from happening - but we still have much more to do.
According to a recent report from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), between 1998 and 2007, 5,179 young workers aged 15-24 years died from occupational injuries. For this same period, an estimated 7.9 million nonfatal injuries to younger workers were treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms.

The passing of Senator Kennedy, a champion of the American worker, reminds all of us what government can - and should - do on behalf of working men and women.
The history of our nation shows that our workers helped transition our country from one industry to the next, driving innovation, and creating economic prosperity for workers, communities, and industry alike.

The history of our nation shows that those who worked hard and played by the rules had something to show for it - a safe, secure and good paying job that supported their family and gave meaning to their community.

Workers from Lorain to Wilmington, from Xenia to Zanesville, deserve a government that does more and does better for them.
But despite these challenges, we reaffirm the American tradition of honoring our workers for their labor.

We affirm that the safety of the workplace should be just as important to corporation profits and shareholder returns.

Today we'll hear from representatives of MSHA and OSHA - agencies that were created to prevent workplace safety injuries and fatalities in our nation's mines, factories, and service industry establishments. We will also hear from industry and labor representatives as they share their experiences with workplace safety.