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View Diary: Entirely Preventable Workplace Fatalities (78 comments)

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  •  Many years ago, my younger brother worked (21+ / 0-)

    in a restaurant and was told by his supervisor to stand on a wet countertop to reach something high up. When he demurred, he was told his job depended on it. He fell, permanently injuring his back, necessitating an operation on his spine at the time and two more back operations in the years since (the second was botched and the third was partly to undo the damage done by that). He did get a settlement, but it certainly was not enough to compensate him for the permanent damage or enough to sustain him for more than a very few years.

    My brother is not at all suited to an office environment. He supports himself through hard physical labor in the outdoors: roofing, landscaping (clearing brush, mostly), and cutting, splitting, and delivering firewood. But because his one-time employer disregarded safety regulations, he will never be completely without relatively constant pain when he does the kind of work he enjoys and knows how to do. I worry about his continued health as he moves into his 40s.

    At least there are safety regulations that cut down on the number of occurrences of the kinds of "accidents" that happened to my brother. Because they were disregarded in his workplace, they didn't save him, but they do save a lot of other people. Because, as the title of this diary says, workplace accidents ARE, very often, entirely preventable.

    My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.
    --Carl Schurz, remarks in the Senate, February 29, 1872

    by leftist vegetarian patriot on Fri Mar 01, 2013 at 09:47:53 AM PST

    •  Thank you for this sad story, leftist vegetarian (16+ / 0-)

      patriot. As we've seen in the world around us and read here, your brother's situation is not unique. The risks are exacerbated in a "down" economy, where supervisors can prey on a worker's fear of job loss if they don't do as they're told... even at their own peril.

      What many consider "accidents" are in fact inevitable outcomes of choices to circumvent or ignor proper procedures. You are correct that

      workplace accidents ARE, very often, entirely preventable.

      Those who do not understand history are condemned to repeat it... in summer school.

      by cassandracarolina on Fri Mar 01, 2013 at 09:53:10 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Possibly not worse, but certainly more poignant (13+ / 0-)

        in my brother's case is that he was so physically gifted. He has been incredibly strong all his life, and very fast--a natural athlete, in fact. I remember how disgusted I was in college hearing from my mom who had heard from my brother's gym teacher that my high school freshman brother had bench pressed 220 pounds when his PE class was confined to the school weight room on a rainy day. Even when I was in the best shape I've ever been in, years older and at my full size, I've never lifted that much. What happened to him would have been just as wrong if it had happened to a bookish skinny guy like me, but at least if it had I wouldn't have felt as if my greatest natural gifts had been partially taken from me.

        My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.
        --Carl Schurz, remarks in the Senate, February 29, 1872

        by leftist vegetarian patriot on Fri Mar 01, 2013 at 10:08:13 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  There is no check on that kind of stupid (8+ / 0-)

      in a small business environment. Any worker who doesn't want to do something stupidly unsafe is dismissed. There is always a willing worker to something utterly absurd. The stupids are held up as paragons. The oafs who order the stupid behavior are never ever restrained.
      I work on ladders daily. If I did what I was told to do with ladders I would be dead many times over .(I've been dismissed many times but I am alive.)  In 35 years on the job I have seen exactly one job action where workers flat refused to work until they were supplied with safe ladders. I've watched too damn many die. Safety regulations are the exception, not the rule.

      •  You shouldn't have to risk dismissal (3+ / 0-)

        just to get through a work shift unscathed.m

        Those who do not understand history are condemned to repeat it... in summer school.

        by cassandracarolina on Sat Mar 02, 2013 at 05:04:19 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  OSHA regulations allow workers to refuse (3+ / 0-)

        unsafe work, defined as an "imminent danger to life or limb" or some such wording.  The problem is that one needs to have the stomach to deal with suspension or discharge for insubordination, and most people don't have it.  Also, you must wait many months, even years, for the case to go through the beauraucratic maze.  In the old days, you could just get another job.  Not so easy now.

        •  Imminent danger to life and limb (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          cassandracarolina, marykk, dsteffen

          doesn't mean much to a young buck convinced of his immortality. Once you've seen enough young die you get disabused of that. Management is always looking for young idiots to do the job. Being young and flexible and talented and lucky allows large numbers of jobs to be completed that should not be completed. All management sees is that if you locate a supply of young healthy idiots all your schemes are easy. That's what immigrant labor is for.

          OSHA is 4 dead letters.

        •  Very sadly true, brae 70 (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          brae70, dsteffen, happymisanthropy

          A bad economy makes it all the more likely that people will tolerate unsafe or otherwise onerous workplace conditions. In a booming economy, companies that treat their workers with such disdain would lose many of them to competiting employers.

          Those who do not understand history are condemned to repeat it... in summer school.

          by cassandracarolina on Sat Mar 02, 2013 at 07:40:15 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  I call bullshit (0+ / 0-)
        In 35 years on the job I have seen exactly one job action where workers flat refused to work until they were supplied with safe ladders. I've watched too damn many die.
        OSHA estimates that there are as many as 36 fatalities per year caused by falls from stairs or ladders.  http://www.osha.gov/...

        Unless you are Jonah of the Ladders, your odds of having seen more than one ladder fatality are minuscule.

        •  I call bullshit on OSHA (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          dsteffen, Laurel in CA, WakeUpNeo

          and I certainly did not say in the passage you quote that every workplace fatality I've witnessed was a ladder fall.

          As I think about that one 36 is just ridiculously low. How do they count scaffold falls? Because I have seen two of those, one where death was immediate, one where Kris lingered paralyzed for years. And no, I was not an eyewitness for either of those falls, only in the immediate vicinity and completely aware of the circumstances and saw the bodies before they were moved. Not counting other scaffolds I've seen come down where I didn't know and didn't want to know.

          Ladder falls are common. I'm the only guy I know who's only fallen once. Most falls cause injury and the level of injury seems to be almost random, unrelated to height of fall or anything else. I used to work with a guy who figured it wasn't a season if he didn't fall. He's come off dozens of times, never off work more than a few weeks. Won't work with him anymore but he's alive and well. His crew works as foolish as he does. Dozens and dozens of injuries and I've seen them. No deaths yet.

          How or why would OSHA know every time someone's hurt? You think there's reporting? I want to work on that job.

          •  Well, if OSHA can't even count do you think they (0+ / 0-)

            are qualified to regulate ladders?

            I certainly did not say in the passage you quote that every workplace fatality I've witnessed was a ladder fall.
            Note the straw man.  I obviously never suggested that you said that you have only seen workplace fatalities caused by ladders - I have no idea how many electrocutions, accidental impalements, falls from the tops of buildings, or on the job burnings alive you have seen.

            What I did certainly imply is that you claim that you have seen more than one ladder fatality.

            In 35 years on the job I have seen exactly one job action where workers flat refused to work until they were supplied with safe ladders. I've watched too damn many die.
            And, yes, based on what you wrote, that is what you seem to have claimed.

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