Tuesday, October 05, 2004

The Life and Death of Gary Puleio – And a New Blog

"The world can never have enough blogs that deal with workplace issues."

-- Jordan Barab, October 5, 2004

And it is with that sentiment that I welcome Mick Arran’s “Dispatch from the Trenches: News and Commentary on the Class War by Workers in the Front Lines” to my blogroll (That’s the list of blogs and other resources over on the left).

I want to point out two recent articles that he’s written. I’ve written a number of times about health and safety activist Donna Puleio Spadaro (here and here) whose brother was killed in a workplace accident.

Mick goes into some disturbing detail about Gary Puleio’s death:
On August 15, 2001, Gary Puleio climbed a 20-foot concrete tower at Meadville Readi-Mix in Pennsylvania. The tower housed the hopper where the cement was mixed and then loaded into trucks waiting beneath it. At the top was a narrow platform running around the rim of the tower. At the end of the day the loose material which had blown onto the platform had to be shoveled back into the hopper. Gary went up there to do that shoveling. A few minutes later, he fell into the hopper. He was dead when they found him.

The question is: Why the hell was Gary up there with a shovel? He was a truck driver. The job he died trying to perform wasn’t his job. He hadn’t been trained to do it, and he hadn’t been given any of the standard safety equipment.
Plant Operations Manager John Shartle claims that he wasn’t ordered to go up on the platform. He just wanted to help out, so he volunteered. Those close to him find that hard to believe.
According to Gary’s sister, Donna Spadaro, her 53-yr-old brother was afraid of heights and ‘had trouble with his knees’. And his widow, Linda, says he told her the day before he died that he had ‘been sent’ up the tower to clean it because he was the new guy. ‘Been sent’ is NOT ‘volunteered’. And nobody who’s got acrophobia goes climbing up a 20-foot tower for the hell of it or because he’s a swell guy. They go because they have to, and a lot of the time not then. Trust me on this—I’m acrophobic, too. If Gary went up there—and he did—it was because he was told to go, and Shartle is lying through his teeth to cover his ass.

A strong indication that what I say is true comes from the company itself, who paid a $6000 penalty after the OSHA investigation into Gary’s death without a whimper. ‘They basically paid the full penalty,’ [OSHA Area Director John ]Stranahan said. ‘They just paid it as issued.’ I don’t doubt it. Little enough after ordering a man to his death doing something he wasn’t supposed to be doing and that you knew he wasn’t supposed to be doing. I bet they were figuring they got off cheap. I hope they were, because they did. Dirt cheap.
Mick’s second installment talks about Gary Puleio who
wasn’t just an example of possible corporate malfeasance and/or negligence. He was a human being, too, a 53-yr-old man with a wife, two young sons, and a long history of choices, decisions, and hardships, of meeting and overcoming obstacles, of getting through the days and weeks of his life like the rest of us, one halting, uncertain step at a time
Check it out.

UPDATE: The third installment of Mick's series about the life of Gary Puleio can be found here.