Saturday, December 17, 2005

Why I Hate Most News Articles About Workplace Deaths

All too often I rant and I rave over newspaper and television stories of workplace fatalities because the give the impress that it was just a "freak accident," or theh dumb worker's fault, or just kinda one of those tragic things.

44-year-old Donald Wilson of Grass Valley, Calif died in a Nevada wastewater treatment plant last weekend when his head was caught in a piece of machinery.

I can't get the details of the incident from the newspaper, but it seems like this was your well known, every-day lockout accident. There's an OSHA standard -- commonly referred to as the Lockout-Tagout standard -- that requires machinery to be de-energized (or at least tagged to warn others not to turn it on) to prevent unexpected energization or startup of machinery and equipment.

Here's the 'dumb worker got his head stuck' story:
Randall Gray, who manages the plant at 8500 Clean Water Way in Sparks, said Wilson apparently got his head stuck in a piece of machinery.

The Oregon-based company has been contracted to clean the tanks for several years, and there's never been a serious safety issue, Gray said.
Yeah, there's never a "serious safety issue" until someone gets killed.

Then there's the "freak accident" story:
Donald Anthony Wilson, known throughout the local firefighting community as "Tony," a dedicated and passionate public servant, died Sunday in a freak accident at a Sparks, Nev., water treatment plant.
As I've said before, a "freak accident" is when you're sitting at your desk, minding your own business and a runaway satellite crashes through the roof over your head. It is not a "freak accident" when the "accident" could have been prevented by complying with the relevant OSHA standard.

Then there's the article I might write:
A wastewater treatment plant worker was killed yesterday when his head was crushed in a piece of machinery due to the apparent failure of plant management to implement an OSHA-mandated lockout-tagout system. Lockout-tagout is intended to safeguard employees from the unexpected energization or startup of machinery and equipment.

When questioned, the plant's supervisors refused to confirm or deny whether they had a lockout-tagout program, or whether contract workers were trained in its implementation.
You get the idea.

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