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Workplace Deaths

  • Posted on July 13, 2015 at 5:17 pm

This past year I have noticed several incidents of work place deaths around the country and especially right here in Michigan.  I always notice these ever since my nephew had his hand cut off while working a summer job after he graduated from high school.  I am acutely aware of issues related to safety in the work place because of my own nephew’s loss.  However, I believe most people are unaware of safety issues even in their own work places.  Most of us assume that we are not at risk of injury or death when we go to work and we believe that our employer is looking out for our best interests at work.  In most circumstances, this may be true, but sadly, it is not true for all circumstances.  I am writing this today just to make even one person more aware of the safety issues that may come up while they are at work.

Here is an astounding statistic that I took word for word form Mibiz online.

“Every person who leaves for work in the morning in good health should expect to return home at night in good health. That did not happen for over 117,000 Michiganders in 2013.” – See more at: http://mibiz.com/item/22206-10-essential-elements-of-a-safe-workplace#sthash.HhdkxKCE.dpuf

Two recent cases brought all of this up for me once again.  In Ionia, Michigan, Wanda Holbrook recently died when she was caught in some kind of robotic machinery at Ventra Ionia Main, a company that makes auto bumpers, trailer hitches, and some kind of plastic parts.  She was a maintenance worker.  The case is being investigated by MIOSHA, so I don’t know what if any violations were made at this time.  In Germany, a man was also killed by robotic equipment at a VW plant.  It grabbed him and crushed his chest against machinery.  These two cases stood out for me as they both involved some kind of robotic machinery.  After reading about these two cases, I decided to look at some other cases involving worker deaths.

This poor kid, Jeremy Mc Spadden, Jr., probably never thought his life would end playing a zombie at a corn maze, but it did.  Workers were paid $50 a night to dress up like zombies and run through the corn while paid customers rode a bus loaded up with paintball guns and shot at them.  What could possibly go wrong?  The company was fined because of the risk they put the workers at with the uneven terrain and the lack of instruction on what to do if their goggles obstructed their vision.  The kid ended up being run over by the bus!

A worker out in California at Bumble Bee Foods was performing maintenance on a 35-foot oven when another worker filled the pressure cooker with tuna and turned it on.  Here is a good video with an interview with his daughter.  I am sure his death would have been prevented, if some good safety procedures had been in place.

I came across a document from the National Council for Safety and Health that is very interesting and actually a quick study.  It highlights seven preventable deaths.  Each person deserved better and died a preventable death.  At their website, you can find out just what your rights as a worker are as most people just don’t think about these things.  I suggest that you give all of this some thought and think about your own job and whether it seems safe or has potential safety issues that should be addressed.  http://www.coshnetwork.org/

Andrew Beckman

In some cases as work is moved out to other countries and factories are closed completely or streamlined with fewer employees, people become more desperate about their jobs.  Sometimes they will work in situations that they may even know are not safe because they need to take care of their families and are holding on to their version of the American dream.  A Michigan steel worker was killed on the job back in 2014.  He was loading steel rods onto a flatbed by himself when they shifted and landed on him.  A full five minutes went by before anyone found him.  I am sure this man would have been better served working with another person.  So, what do you think was the price of Andrew’s life?  The company was cited by MIOSHA for $4900 for basically improperly training him with using a special sling to lift the 3000 pound load.

Another man in Michigan died just this month when he fell at a Walker packaging company.  His death is being investigated.

Many people probably still remember the worker who was crushed last year working at Grand Rapids Plastic, Inc.  Recently, they received a hefty fine for many safety violations.  I remember reading about the case last year.  Many of the people comented in the online article on the unsafe work environment at the plant, many were people currently working there.  People will take many jobs to take care of their families and sometimes they are unsafe.  His wife has retained Geoffrey Fieger as her lawyer.  This is probably a good move on her part but it certainly won’t bring him back.  I heard her on the news and I do know that she wants justice for her husband.

These accidents are happening all over our country and of course, around the world.  The big question is which of these are truly accidents and which are preventible?  One of the things that I came across about MIOSHA and the fines was that they usually negoitiate with the companies and the fines end up being half of the original cost.  Supposedly, the company is expected to take the balance of the money and put it towards better safety protocol.  I am sure some use it wisely and other companies seem to turn up with more violations year after year.

This was not a happy post.   I wasn’t trying to make anyone happy even though I am a very optimistic person.  I am merely trying to get people to become more aware of their own workplace environment and that of their children.  Over the years, I remember talking to students that were repeatedly burned by grease at fast food restaurants.  I am thinking maybe they could wear special gloves or there must be some way to shield them from exposure to the grease but it is time people started letting their inner voice question some of the things they are asked to do at work.  Are you slicing or grinding up meat?  Has anyone really taught you the safe way to do that?  Speak up if you think you know a safer, better way to do something.  Talk to other people on the job.  Just how did that guy lose his finger?  Was it really his fault or was something malfunctioning on the machine he was working on?  Sometimes, people are asked to multi-task, not the safest thing to do if you are cutting something.  When I am at school using my paper cutter, I am very aware of how easily I could lose a bit of my fingers.  Students are always talking and asking questions.  Sometimes, I just stop them and tell them I have to focus on cutting paper because I don’t want to be cut.  Many have asked me if I have ever cut myself.  Thankfully, I haven’t but I am keenly aware of others that have had that misfortune.  Please take your safety at work seriously.  When you get in your car, you buckle up.  When you go to work, make sure you are rested and aware of your surroundings, and up on any safety protocol!

Worker’s Hell

  • Posted on August 26, 2010 at 11:46 am

A handout picture provided by Chilean President Sebastian Pinera showing a handwritten note with the message "All 33 of us are fine in the shelter", written by the miners trapped deep underground for 17 days, in Copiapo, Chile, 22 August 2010. EPA/JOSÉ MANUEL DE LA MAZA/CHILEAN PRESIDENCY/HO

A Mining Family

Okay, if you have been here before you now understand the title of my blog, “What’s on Katie’s Mind?”  My brain is always going.  I’m always thinking about things that relate to politics, art and education and of course I have my own unique perspective.  If I’m out shopping I might see some obscure thing that may give me an idea for an art project for my students.  My brain tends to hop around a lot in thought from one thing to the other.  Maybe this is the way everyone processes information.  I don’t really know.  I just know that since my son, Josh, gave me this blog, I have found it really rewarding to write about some of the many ideas and thoughts that come to me on a daily basis.  Much thanks to my wonderful son, Josh.  Today I’m thinking about several things again, as always.  It’s hard to pick just one topic to write about.  These are the thoughts I’m having:

Worker’s Hell:

The risk is always at the bottom and the payoff is always at the top.

Education:

Is there a correlation with the drop in worker pay with the falling education scores?

19th Amendment:

Even though we celebrate ninety years, there are still inequities in pay and that ever illusive ERA has never been ratified.

Just heard on TV:

British spy murdered…Mystery…found in sports bag…..may have taken important work home.   Computer stolen…sex games…porn…quiet person….cyclist….  This might be interesting to find out more about the spying, that is!

I’d like to focus a little bit on that “Worker’s Hell”.

We have all heard about the Chilean miners.  I know everyone is praying for their safe return to their families.  We are being told that this reunion could take months so obviously these poor guys are in serious “Worker’s Hell”.  It is disturbing how many major catastrophes there have been for workers in mines and oil rigs this past year or so.  Maybe there are more or maybe we are hearing more about it.  One thing stands out for me and that is all of the mortal risk for these corporations that run these businesses is at the bottom of the pay grade.  It is the worker bees that suffer the personal losses of life, limbs and economic hardship.  The CEO at the top collects the pay off.  It would be extremely rare to hear about a CEO dying on the job unless he/she had a heart attack or die in a plane or automobile crash.  They just don’t die doing hard labor.

What seems to be over looked in this whole mine disaster is the safety of the mine to begin with.  We are so busy just worrying about the miners that not much noteworthy effort from news sources has been placed on this issue.  There was an accident in 2007 at this mine that killed two peoples.  There should have been much effort at that time to make this mine safer.   http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Americas/2010/0824/Chile-mine-collapse-sounds-alarm-on-safety-standards

This is the most important excerpt from this article:

Chile has a free-market economy where the first principle is to maximize profit without any other consideration. We need to take other things into consideration, including worker security,” Augustin Latorre, spokesman for the Mining Federation, an association of 22 unions at private mines, said in a telephone interview. “The state should offer, in particular in mines, the necessary security measures and inspections. We aren’t demanding that mines be closed, but that they be secure.”

This sounds so familiar.  We could talk about the BP oil spill or the recent coal mine disasters but the truth is corners have always been cut to maximize profits.

I don’t want to speculate about these miners and the real hardships they are facing over the next several months with their confinement.  Mika, on Morning Joe, actually laughed this morning in reference to the fact that these guys are being told to “stay slim”.  If you don’t know Mika Brezinski, she is the spoiled, entitled brat of Zbigniew Brezinski who has been on a “fat kick” for years.  She likes to tell people to go on diets.  I couldn’t believe anyone could be so cold to find humor in any of this.  However, she will never be a “worker bee” that faces eminent peril.  She is too far up the food chain!  It is a nightmare beyond imagination to wonder how the scientists are going to pull these guys up through some endless tunnel to safety.  I cannot even imagine the terror of going up a short length of a dark hole let alone one that is 2300 feet underground.  I cannot and do not want to think about being entombed in a dark hole underground anxiously wondering about my rescue.  My heart goes out to all these people and their families.

My heart always goes out to the “worker bees”.  These are the people that move a country.  They put food on the table.  They mine the minerals that we use in everything from energy production to computers and jewelry.  These are the workers that use manufacturing equipment that can literally crush them.  These are the workers that can have limbs removed because someone cut a corner and either bought old, unsafe equipment or didn’t teach them safety standards.

No one should laugh at any worker bee as they take all the risk and receive the least amount of benefit.  The CEO, the president, the person at the top gets the pay off.  They expend the least amount of risk and receive the greatest benefits.

It’s time that we reward those worker bees.  The people that are at the bottom of this proverbial food chain that have jobs that are not safe should be protected and rewarded with greater pay for the obvious risks they take to put food on the table for their families.  Often times these people know no other way.  Dad worked in the mine.  Grandpa worked in the mine and there is no other choice for them.  So, they work in a mine.  Many probably would prefer other work.  I know you’re thinking someone has to do this work.  That may be true but the jobs can be made safer and more lucrative for the workers.  It shouldn’t be just about maximizing profits.  There has to be some financial reward for workers that work in very unsafe jobs.

We may have to pay a bit more for the products or the CEO and the administrators and owners of the company may have to receive a little less “bonus” money but it needs to be done.  This isn’t a radical thought even though I know someone will say and think I’m a socialist.  I may be.  I don’t know.  That’s just a label.  I believe in social justice as I was taught with my Catholic upbringing.  It’s time that the worker bees banded together and demanded social justice for all.

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