OSHAThe New York Times has just run the third and final part of its investigation into workplace safety, entitled When Workers Die. The series, written by a team led by David Barstow, is long and substantial enough to comprise a small book (and hopefully will be made into one, which is certain to be a best-seller). It reveals one of the darkest sides of corporatism — when business and government work together to cover up criminal negligence against workers, and with the help of armies of lawyers, shield each other from litigation arising from it. It’s a damning protrait of OSHA, the federal agency that is supposed to protect workers but which instead effectively protects negligent and heartless employers. By contrast, it shows how California leads the way in safeguarding basic workers’ rights. Please read the whole series:

1. A Trench Caves In; a Young Worker is dead. Is It a Crime?
2. US Rarely Seeks Charges for Deaths in Workplace
3. California Leads in Making Employer Pay for Job Deaths

In case the thought of reading a small book on such a depressing subject during Christmas week makes you groan, consider that about 170,000 Americans have died in the past two decades from workplace injuries. Here’s a short teaser to motivate you:

Every one of their deaths was a potential crime. Workers decapitated on assembly lines, shredded in machinery, burned beyond recognition, electrocuted, buried alive ó all of them killed, investigators concluded, because their employers willfully violated workplace safety laws.

These deaths represent the very worst in the American workplace, acts of intentional wrongdoing or plain indifference. They were not accidents. They happened because a boss removed a safety device to speed up production, or because a company ignored explicit safety warnings, or because a worker was denied proper protective gear.

And for years, in news releases and Congressional testimony, senior officials at the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration have described these cases as intolerable outrages, “horror stories” that demanded the agency’s strongest response. They have repeatedly pledged to press wherever possible for criminal charges against those responsible.

These promises have not been kept.

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  1. says:

    Dave,I agree that this was an outstanding series on a topic seldom discussed. Worthy of a Pulitzer. Let’s hope they get one.Ron

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