Sunday, February 15, 2004

Trench Death an "Accident"

But What's An "Accident?"

The Fire Department of the City of Zanesville, OH, has determined that the death of James Carpenter in a trench collapse last November was "an accident." And they're right, as they define accident.
We handle the criminal portion of the investigation," [Zanesville Fire Chief David Lacy] said. "We determine if the accident was caused intentionally -- such as an employee took a backhoe and intentionally threw dirt into the ditch to bury him. OSHA handles the civil portion of the investigation."
OK, so let's look at the definition of the word "accident." According to Webster, "accident" has several meanings:
1 a : an unforeseen and unplanned event or circumstance
b : lack of intention or necessity: CHANCE
2 a : an unfortunate event resulting especially from carelessness or ignorance
The city is clearly using definition 1b: "lack of intention or necessity." The problem is that the public perusing the headline would generally think of definition 1a: "an unforseen and unplanned event or circumstance." In other words, shit happens, too bad, bad luck, nothing could have been done to prevent it.

We here at Confined Space know better, of course. We prefer definition 2a: "An unfortunate event resulting especially from carelessness or ignorance."

...And punishable by a considerable fine and perhaps jail time, as opposed to the $4,500 penalty that OSHA has issued against the company.