Saturday, September 27, 2003

McWane/Tyler Pipe: Getting better or Same Old, Same Old?

McWane corporation, owner of Tyler Pipe is in the news again. McWane, you will remember, was the subject of a New York Times/Frontline investigation into the high number of injuries and deaths at McWane-owned facilites over the past several years.

McWane says they're doing better, and OSHA agrees.

David Willis doesn't agree.
David Willis was working against the clock. His shift was ending soon and he still had a job to do.

The mechanic had a choice, the kind that has become routine at the Tyler Pipe foundry. He could do things the slow, safe way but maybe not finish in time, or be fast, risky and, if all went well, get the job done.

Like so many colleagues before him, Willis went for speed. Eighteen days later, he left a hospital, lucky to be alive.

Willis skipped the "lock out" process, which would have kept his machines shut off while he changed a 500-pound iron mold. Without that safeguard, the machine was somehow triggered by co-worker Jason Testerman, crushing Willis against an elevated deck. Ribs broken and a lung collapsed, his face turned purple as he shrieked for his life.


Tyler Pipe officials insist conditions have improved in recent years. But workers point to Willis' July 22 accident and other problems as proof that the East Texas foundry is still fraught with risk.
And do we think there's a connection here:
Lost workdays are still higher than the most recent industry standard. In 2001, Tyler reported 17.1 percent of workers had injuries that prevented them from doing their usual jobs, compared with the industry standard of 7.4 percent. In 2002, Tyler improved to 13.8 percent. Industry figures are not yet available for 2002.

More training hours are now required, the company said. There's also a safety task force and incentives for complying: company jackets, caps and watches to workers who avoid accidents; cash prizes for reporting hazards
Some workers evidently think so:
While some employees agree, others say the shift is superficial. It's still bottom-line first, they say, noting that training is limited to videos, relief workers are still scarce, and employees are still asked to work alone and do jobs they're not trained to do.

There are also grumblings that the safety incentives are a joke because some supervisors don't enforce rules and bully workers to keep quiet about violations.
Anyway, no matter how hard you try, shit happens.
Company officials say they're doing all they can, but they can't prevent everything.

"Sometimes," said Ruffner Page, the McWane president, "mistakes are made."
But "sometimes" the ones who make the mistakes are not the same as the ones who get hurt.