Confined Space
News and Commentary on Workplace Health & Safety, Labor and Politics

Tuesday, May 02, 2006


"My Son Was Killed" -- Workers Memorial Day, Philadelphia

Below are excerpts from a Workers Memorial Day speech in Philadelphia by Irene Warnock whose 22 year old son, Chuck Carpenter, was electrocuted last year.
My 22-year-old son, Chuck Carpenter, was killed instantly at work July 2, 2005. It was not an "accident", "unfortunate incident", "terrible tragedy", or any of those other politically correct words. My son was killed.

My son was electrocuted at work. He was a mechanic, not a licensed electrician.

My son worked for William Major who owns and operates Funtown Pier in Seaside Park, New Jersey, which is an amusement park at the Jersey Shore boardwalk. It was two days before the big July 4th money-making weekend. It was hot and humid at the Jersey Shore. My son was sweaty and overtired. He had already worked, approximately, 16 hours that day.

We have not received OSHA's report as of this date; but, from what little I understand, not one, but two employees were electrocuted that single day on the Arctic Circle ride, killing my son instantly with 440 volts. Bulgarian work-visa ride operators AND PATRONS were complaining of being shocked. The New Jersey newspaper reporters reported, "by static electricity." I have heard of static electricity while walking on a rug with slippers on a winter day, but - "static electricity" on a hot, humid summer day? Is this what William Major/Funtown Pier, the employer, told the newspaper and television reporters? If so, how could William Major/Funtown Pier have a license to operate these HIGH VOLTAGE machines?

***

The operative cause of my son's workplace death was that the owner of a company using dangerous machinery powered by HIGH VOLTAGE electric power, allowed that these machines be maintained by an unlicenced worker untrained in that field. It should have been obvious that such power installations required the employment of a trained and licenced electrician. Sadly, my son's work ethic contributed to his death. Young, ambitious men are likely to get out of their depth, and sometimes must be prevented from doing so, by their employer and by government regulation.

Even the best- regulated operations, well-trained workers will sometimes be injured or even, sadly, killed. But, it is the job of OSHA and other government agencies to reduce those cases to the absolute minimum. How hard would it be for such an agency to declare that HIGH VOLTAGE power must be maintained by a licenced electrician, to determine that a company uses such power, and to demand to see a copy of the license?

It would seem to me that allowing untrained and unlicenced personnel to work with HIGH VOLTAGE power should be illegal, and probably is, but why was there no mechanism to ensure compliance?

Is it because OSHA positions are politically appointed that the majority of the time OSHA does not impose a jail sentence in a work-related death or impose stiff fines and penalties because of pay-to-play political party donations? Is it possible that such regulations and reporting requirements already exist, but that unscrupulous business owners might gain immunity from them through political influence?

***

In New Jersey a hairdresser or barber must be licensed! Why can we not do so for more dangerous workplace environments?

My son's work-place death began as a crime scene. Is it going to conclude as a criminal investigation? The reality is, probably not. The crime is that right now, probably right at this moment, another family just lost a loved one to a work-place death, which, more than likely, could have been prevented.

In conclusion, per Donald Coit Smith, whose 22-year-old son was also electrocuted in a meat packing facility in Texas last year . . . "Employer negligence is all about money . . . elect legislators who will take the public's best interest at heart and make these law changes to protect the common man. Too much employer PAC money is given to elected officials to (make) employer favorable laws."

It is time to stop the "Pay-to-Play" politics in New Jersey.

PLEASE VOTE WISELY.
The entire speech can be read here.

P.S. OSHA'S web site reports this case as closed, without citation. Stay tuned.

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DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in this Blog are my own and do not, in any way, shape or form, reflect or represent the views or policies of my employer. Links to or from other websites of individuals or organizations do not constitute an endorsement of these views.
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