Last week's hearings on safety at the Sago Mine in West Virginia put the dangerous conditions faced by coal miners into sharp perspective. But workplace safety is an issue in our own backyard, too. Picture yourself hanging by a rope, dangling off the Robert Moses Bridge while painting it without an appropriate safety harness or protective gear. Imagine yourself on a pharmaceutical assembly line in Melville, day after day, performing the same repetitive motion and wondering if the strain on your body will make today your last day on the job.And that not enough is being done:
These sorts of conditions are what many American workers face. In the environment of work speedups, worker layoffs and relaxed safety regulations, millions of people each year work under impossible and dangerous conditions and are injured or killed on the job.
Workers should not have to risk their lives to earn a living for their families. Companies whose negligence and oversight are penalized with nominal fines are only encouraged to increase their profits by exploiting their workers.
The average penalty is only $906 for companies on Long Island in a serious citation for conditions creating substantial probability of death or serious physical harm to workers. These penalties are clearly not enough to change the behavior of many employers.