Skip to main content

(Disclosure: I am a blogger fellow with Brave New Films, the creator of this video and the 16 Deaths Per Day campaign)

Every day in America, 16 people die at work from employer negligence.

That's the backdrop to 16 Deaths Per Day, a new video and website seeking to highlight the often-neglected issue of worker safety.

The video makes the point that employers who provide an unsafe work environment are almost never prosecuted in the event of a death of an employee.  Even if they were, the crime of contributing to an employee's death is only a misdemeanor, with a maximum prison sentence of six months and a maximum fine of $70,000.  Under the Bush Administration, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) hardly ever referred cases to the Justice Department for prosecution, lowered fines for noncompliance so that they represented a minor cost of doing business, and underfunded the agency so it could never inspect worksites across America for unsafe conditions.  In addition, OSHA protections currently do not apply to all public employees at the state or federal level.

The video takes a look at the stories of several workers.  Travis Koehler-Fergen, an employee at the Orleans Hotel in Las Vegas, and Tina Hall, from Toyo Automotive Parts USA, both died at their workplaces in accidents.  The Orleans was found by OSHA to have broken the law, but were never referred for prosecution.  16 safety violations were found at the Toyo plant prior to the accident that killed Tina Hall, but the highest fine ever levied on the company was $7,000.

When you go to work, you should be assured that your health and safety are not put at risk.  You employer should be liable if something goes wrong.  And they should maintain a safe workplace and not easily factor the fines for noncompliance into their business plan.

Members of Congress, including Lynn Woolsey and the late Ted Kennedy, introduced a bill this April called the Protecting America's Workers Act, which would tighten up worker safety laws, and give OSHA the ability to impose legitimate fines on noncompliant work sites, making the law adequate to deal with serious violators.  Among other things, the bill would:

• Expand workplace protections to state, county, municipal, and federal employees who are not currently covered by the Occupational Safety and Health Act
• Increase financial penalties for those who kill or endanger workers
• Strengthen criminal penalties to make felony charges available for willful negligence causing death or serious injury
• Expand OSHA coverage to millions of other employees who fall through the cracks (like airline and railroad workers)
• Provide protection for whistleblowers
• Give employees the right to refuse hazardous work that may kill them
• Improve the rights of workers and families, requiring OSHA to investigate all cases of death
• Prohibit employers from discouraging reporting of injury or illness

16 Deaths Per Day has a petition for members of the relevant House and Senate committees, urging them to pass this bill.  There's a Facebook page as well.

Originally posted to dday on Tue Nov 10, 2009 at 07:50 AM PST.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  Here's a link to Worker's Memorials in the US (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    vigilant meerkat, geez53

    http://www.aflcio.org/...

    I spent time in the chemical fields, here was our memorial:

    Memorial Plaque
    Dow Chemical
    Lake Jackson

    In 1999 Plumbers and Pipe Fitters Local 390 installed a plaque in memory of workers who lost their lives throughout the years at Dow Chemical Co.'s Freeport, Texas, site. The plate for the plaque was cut by the members of Boilermakers Local 682, etched and engraved by members of Machinists Local Lodge 128, welded to a pipe stand by members of UA Local 390 and lowered into place by members of Operating Engineers Local 564. The Dow Chemical Co. helped the represented local unions plant a tree in memory of workers who lost their lives on the job and in 2000 Dow donated visiting benches at the site of the plaque. The plaque and tree are located on Dow property about a half mile up from the entrance at Highway 332 and Dixie Drive in Lake Jackson, Texas.

    A lot of names on the plaque, but not nearly as many as we will put on this:

    http://cfbr.org/...

    •  what is the point of trying (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      geez53, QuestionAuthority

      to hijack this thread? This is a very important issue that needs to get a lot more visibility.

      In addition to job losses, and deaths on the job, there are hundreds of thousands who become disabled because of their work.

      Worker's comp is a joke. If they are disabled, they have no health care and no income.

      If they are lucky enough to qualify for SSI disability, you have to wait 2 years to get anything. That's after you qualify, people spend years trying to qualify.

      Inconceivable! You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

      by hopeful on Tue Nov 10, 2009 at 08:17:07 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Hijacking the thread by showing (0+ / 0-)

        worker memorials in a diary about worker safety?

        You are tripping before thyself.

        •  sorry, I clicked on the link (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          RenderQT

          and it looked like a site dedicated to fallen soldiers.  I assumed you were saying more folks had died in war than at work...although you could argue that war is work...

          If I misinterpreted, I apologize.

          Inconceivable! You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

          by hopeful on Tue Nov 10, 2009 at 09:32:05 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  Seven years so far...... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        QuestionAuthority

        Worker's comp is a joke. If they are disabled, they have no health care and no income.

        If they are lucky enough to qualify for SSI disability, you have to wait 2 years to get anything. That's after you qualify, people spend years trying to qualify.

        And if you are resisting the SSI route in favor of making Comp pay to fix what they've insured against, your SSI monthly payment will drop because you didn't have income while you were fighting Comp.

        There are exceptions: if you're dying of some industrial based cancer, SSI will try to get you your check faster, or at least try to get it to your spouse in a "timely" manner.

        IGTNT...Honor the Fallen...Respect Their Loved Ones.

        by geez53 on Tue Nov 10, 2009 at 08:42:36 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  and I am very sorry dday, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sychotic1, happy camper

    this is one of those diaries that will probably drop off the front page quickly.

    I'd love to do a series with you, if you are interested in trying to increase awareness.

    what is you area of interest/expertise?

    Inconceivable! You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

    by hopeful on Tue Nov 10, 2009 at 08:18:52 AM PST

  •  More than one 9/11 every year....... (3+ / 0-)

    Maybe OSHA needs some help from Blackwater. Osha has just TWOpeople that cover the St Louis region. Takes at least one dead body to get them out to construction scene around here. Unless you're a major contractor wanting to whip a sub-contractor into shape, then they're "camped-out" with cameras and notepads till they find a violation. I know they've been understaffed since Reagan, so i don't blame them entirely, but they don't have to be a tool for management.

    IGTNT...Honor the Fallen...Respect Their Loved Ones.

    by geez53 on Tue Nov 10, 2009 at 08:31:26 AM PST

  •  The most important thing (3+ / 0-)

    Give employees the right to refuse hazardous work that may kill them

    is often the hardest to put into place.

    Especially in a nonunion environment, where the safety man, if there is one, is a management employee, and the worker is more or less at the mercy of their immediate supervisor, it can be very difficult to say no. Employees who question unsafe procedures are often told "that's how we do it, it's no big deal, just do it".

    "Well, you've got to understand, they're Republicans. They're just doing what comes natural." -John Dingell

    by happy camper on Tue Nov 10, 2009 at 08:36:34 AM PST

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site