Friday, June 30, 2006

Tragic, Yes. Bizarre, No

Webster's Dictionary defines "bizarre" as: "strikingly out of the ordinary."

Now, read this.
Worker killed in Webster Parish plant accident

SAREPTA, La. A bizarre accident at a plastic car parts plant in Webster Parish has claimed the life of a woman. It happened at Continental Structural Plastics in Sarepta.

Authorities say Colotha Gates was loading her machine and someone apparently tripped the machine accidentally, causing the press to come down and crush her skull. Gates later died from her injury.

The company molds plastic parts for all types of vehicles.

The Webster Parish Sheriff's Office is investigating.
This is, unfortunately not strikingly out of the ordinary. Getting crushed in a machine that is accidentally turned on is, unfortunately, striking common enough that there's an OSHA standard designed to prevent such tragedies. It's technical name is "Control of Hazardous Energy," (29 CFR 1910.147), but it's commonly known as the "Lockout Tagout Standard."

What that means is that before a worker puts any part of his or her body inside a machine, it has to either be locked out (so that only that worker can turn it back on) or tagged out (warning other workers not to turn on the machine.)

According to OSHA:
"Lockout/Tagout (LOTO)" refers to specific practices and procedures to safeguard employees from the unexpected energization or startup of machinery and equipment, or the release of hazardous energy during service or maintenance activities.

Approximately 3 million workers service equipment and face the greatest risk of injury if lockout/tagout is not properly implemented.
Three million workers facing the same hazard is not "bizarre." What would be bizarre is if Colotha Gates' employer is found to be out of compliance with the lockout-tagout standard and gets away with only a relatively small fine.

On the other hand, that would not be "out of the ordinary" for OSHA. Tragic, yes. But unfortunately not bizarre.