Saturday, March 18, 2006

USA Today Article: A Waste Of Good Newsprint

Several people sent me this USA Today article, Dangerous jobs come in all shapes, sizes, by Emily Bazar. It's a description of a number of hazardous jobs in this country. I generally enjoy reading such articles, figuring that we're providing just a bit more information to the masses who otherwise see, hear and smell no evil in our nation's workplaces.

But after my first quick reading I was strangely unsatisfied. Then I realized why. It's not so much what was written but what wasn't written:

Try writing an article about the most dangerous jobs in American without even mentioning the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Spend about half the article talking about the incredible suffering plaguing millions of American workers from back injuries and other strains and sprains caused by lifting and other repetitive motions, without once mentioning the ergonomics standard repealed by the Bush administration in 2001.

And make sure that after doing a good job describing a host of work-related hazards, you don’t say anything about how to reduce or eliminate any of the hazards (except for a safety committee whose only function seems to be warning new workers not to be too impatient to wait for assistance to lift heavy boxes.) Don't mention OSHA standards that aren't being followed, or other well-recognized industry best-practices that are being ignored. Or how employers who are literally getting away with murder by getting tiny fines for killing workers.

Add a few sentences like these: “Everyone admits that some danger is inherent to these industries. But many workers accept the risks”

“Besides, he says, the risks become a part of life. ‘You get used to it," he says, "and take pride in your job.’"

You’ll have this nice little USA Today article.

No wonder it's so hard to make national progress on health and safety issues in this country. You finally get a bit of newspaper real estate and they waste it.