Thursday, January 25, 2007

A reminder of what we stand for and why we need to stand together

Jordan of Confined Space is leaving, but his last post packs a punch:
Over the past four years, I’ve written more than 2,800 posts here at Confined Space. My original goal was not just to educate people about what is happening in American workplaces, but also to put workplace safety and health into a political context. You won't read in any newspapers that if the 12 deaths at Sago last year, or the 15 deaths at the BP Texas City refinery the year before had been the only workplace fatalities on those days, those would have been good days in the American workplace. More than 15 workers are killed every day on the job in this country and a worker becomes injured or ill on the job every 2.5 seconds. The overwhelming majority of deaths, injuries and illnesses could have been easily prevented had the employers simply provided a safe workplace and complied with well-recognized OSHA regulations or other safe practices.

And you'll never learn from the evening news that we have more fish and wildlife inspectors than OSHA inspectors, or that the penalties from a chemical release that kills fish is higher than a chemical release that kills a worker. Not many are aware that workers are often afraid to complain about health and safety hazards or file a complaint with OSHA. Almost no one understands that OSHA inspections are so infrequent and penalties for endangering workers are so insignificant that there is almost no disincentive for employers to break the law. Employers are almost never criminally prosecuted for killing workers even when they knew they were violating OSHA standards.

You know these things. But most Americans – including our political leaders -- don’t have a clue. And most of this nation’s newspapers and other media aren’t helping.

And there are still far too many health and safety professionals that don’t understand that to a very great extent, who lives and who dies in the workplace is determined by politics – both power relationships in the workplace, and traditional politics that determines who controls our government. What that means is that organizing unions and electing politicians who will fight against unlimited corporate control over our regulatory agencies, our workplaces and the environment are of vital importance to protecting the health and safety of American workers.

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