Monday, March 29, 2004

Happy Blogiversary

Confined Space is one year old today. Taking a moment to pat myself on the back: Almost 900 pages, well over a quarter million words...and I'm still married and employed (for now).

And think of what's happened since Confined Space hit the web. One year ago today, George Bush was president, OSHA was sinking into irrelevancy and still hadn't issued its Tuberculosis or Payment for Personal Protective Equipment standards, most public employees weren't covered by OSHA, immigrant workers were dying and being injured in record numbers, American soldiers were dying in Iraq and weapons of mass destruction had yet to be found.

Whereas, today, one year later.....


Looking back, it's also time to consider whether I've reached my goals. My original idea for this Blog was to show, with concrete examples, that politics and voting matter:
Voting matters -- in national and local elections. It matters in big ways and small way, but it also matters in how safe their workplaces are going to be. It matters whether their children are going to grow up with unhealthy injured parents, or no parents at all. People need to understand that everything is connected. Tax cuts, growing deficits, appropriations, executive orders, regulatory "reform" -- it all affects our safety every day.
And finally, of course, I had
a grandiose notion that this Weblog might make a difference. Might make a few more people aware that something evil this way comes. It's here. And we need to recognize it, talk about it and do something about it.
So, have I made a few more people aware? I suppose so. I've gotten somewhere over 40,000 hits in the past year (and close to 70,000 page views), numbers that grow almost every month. I'm averaging around 200 a day, 1500 a week. Almost half of the hits are from searches, some looking for information on confined space safety or other health and safety issues, others looking for:
As if the work isn't hard enough, it's so hot in the laundry that nurses are joining laundry room workers at Acme Central Hospital to stage an action...
(You get the idea)

If I've managed to make a few people think for the first time about the proper role for government in protecting worker safety, about how the media not only under-reports workplace injuries, illnesses and fatalities, but rarely looks deeply into the root causes then it's a success. And perhaps some of the issue raised in this blog will grow up to become issues in this the upcoming elections.

On a personal level, I've found writing this blog to be enormously enjoyable. It gives me a reason to read everything I can find on workplace safety and health, to learn more about the issues and to think about what all of this means in the larger context of life in America's workplaces -- and in the American political landscape.

But most fulfilling, and unexpected, have been the e-mails I've received from families of workers killed on the job after they've found their husband's or father's or brother-in-law's names on Confined Space. At first I found it curious that people would be trolling the web months after the death, looking for....what? A sign that someone out there still remembers and cares, or maybe some actions that OSHA may have taken (but forgotten to inform the family about)? I don't know, but it's clear that they found on Confined Space some measure of satisfaction that there are others out there who are angry about what happened to their loved ones, and others who understand that their deaths were not "freak accidents," but tragedies that could have been prevented had the law been followed. And finally, that there are people out there fighting to see that tragedies like theirs don't happen again.


Fulfilling and fun, but also enormously time-consuming. Luckily I don't need much sleep and my teenage children would prefer that I be seen and heard as rarely as possible. My wife, Jessie, has been enormously supportive considering that she's rather computer phobic and this occasionally cuts into completion of my Honeydew list. And I've been reading the same damn book for three months (of course, it is 1000 pages long.) Hard to read books, blog and have a day job at the same time.

The challenge now is how to build readerhip. I had fantasies that every organized -- and lots of unorganized workers would be avid readers. I'm still around twenty to thirty million hits short. Confined Space has been linked on a number of local and international union websites, although it's becoming increasingly clear to me that most workers don't come home and surf the web every night (or at least they don't surf their union's webpages much). In fact most of my readership comes during weekdays, presumably at work. (On break time, I'm of course.) I occasionally collect e-mail addresses from union webpages and send e-mails. Generally I get more thank you's than curses. Basically I need to depend on all of you to spread the word.

So what does the future hold for Confined Space? My original intention was to keep it going at least until the election. After that, who knows? (in more ways than one). It's a lot of work (enjoyable as it is), so I've also been considering other options -- inviting a few more writers aboard and making this a "group blog," or possibly joining forces with one or more other similarly minded bloggers. (Volunteers know where to find me.)

Finally, thanks to all of you for reading, sending supportive notes and occasionally even commenting on individual posts. I think the main contribution this blog has made is creating a community of like-minded workers, activists and health and safety professionals. God knows, we need that community in times like these.

So here's hoping that by next March 29, our long national nightmare will have ended and we'll be moving forward again.