32 lives honored for Worker's Memorial Day

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Dozens of men and women who lost their lives in the workplace were honored at the Worker’s Memorial Day Ceremony.

That ceremony was held Friday morning at the Northeast Florida Safety Council on Art Museum Drive. According to the agency, 32 people were killed last year on the job in work-related accidents. Their names were read aloud and appeared on a special wreath at the ceremony.

The memorial also paid tribute to the widow of an El Faro crew member who has worked tirelessly to change laws.

Rochelle Hamm lost her husband, Frank, in the El Faro tragedy four years ago when the cargo ship sailed into the path of a hurricane and killed two dozen people. 

“It’s a struggle. It is. Every day is a struggle. When I look like this, this morning, I was just bawling. But I’ve mastered how to cover up my pain,” Haim said at Friday's memorial. She was among those in attendance who wore a purple ribbon.

Her heartache has led to action. She was honored for her efforts in working to improve maritime safety with the Hamm Alert Maritime Safety Act which was signed into law last year.

It calls for third and fourth party safety measures- meaning there are multiple checkers in place. It also calls for devices to be added to vessels allowing for anonymous alerts to the Coast Guard if there is a concern about safety. 

Knowing people have been killed on the job since her own husband’s death is painful for Haim. But she is grateful for knowing her message of safety is resonating.

"I just got off the phone with one of my girlfriends and she told me that her grandson is a seaman. The Coast Guard stopped that ship because there were some things going on, that the ship wasn’t fit. When they inspected it again, it still wasn’t 100%. So they ended up letting her grandson come home until they were able to get the job done. When I hear stories like that, I think, ‘thank you Jesus. Another tragedy has been prevented’,” Haim said.

The hope moving forward is to inspire better work safety practices.

The Northeast Florida Safety Council said it was personally impacted last year when a worker died while completing work on an employee’s home. 

“A roofing contractor was doing work on storm damage repair to a roof. A young man was carrying a load of shingles and slipped on a gutter and fell to his death. And so, it has impacted all of us. As it does every single family,” said Katherine Sutton with the Northeast Florida Safety Council.

The number of deaths last year, according to the agency, is considerably higher than the number of deaths in previous years.

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