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The 4,551 people who were killed on the job in American workplaces in 2009 represent "carnage that eclipsed the total number of U.S. fatalities in the nine-year Iraq war ... Yet the typical fine for a worker death is about $7,900," iWatch News' Jim Morris points out in a look at the limitations of Occupational Safety and Health Act enforcement in the United States.

We know that it would take the Occupational Safety and Health Administration more than 130 years to inspect all the workplaces under its jurisdiction. Morris details how this is combined with OSHA inspectors being under relentless pressure to carry out more investigations—sometimes at the cost of thorough investigations. That can happen even on investigations of fatal accidents, as appears to have been the case in the investigation of the 2009 explosion that killed Nick Revetta. U.S. Steel, which owned the plant where Revetta was working as a contractor, was not cited or fined in Revetta's death, despite having put relentless pressure on contractors to work quicker. The investigator looking into the explosion did make a major effort, but:

[E]mails obtained by the Center for Public Integrity show that Laughlin’s requests for help went unanswered, and he was pulled off the investigation by a supervisor striving to meet inspection goals.

“My problem is at what point do we give up quality for quantity,” Laughlin wrote in an appeal to a higher-ranking OSHA official in Philadelphia in November 2009. “I need some guidance because I'm torn and my spirit is broken because of the need to complete this case to the best of my ability."

The official advised Laughlin to “relax” and use the weekend to “go out and hit some [golf] balls!”

Nick Revetta left a wife, two children and a brother. In 2010, 17 workers were sent to the hospital by another explosion at the plant he died in. None of this is inevitable—the U.S. has much higher workplace fatality rates than many other industrialized nations. But Republicans continue to stand firmly in the way of improving safety regulations and oversight.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Mon May 21, 2012 at 09:11 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  That's Nothing!!! 30,000+ Americans killed every (0+ / 0-)

    4,551 Americans killed on the job in one year is plenty bad indeed.  I fully support making workplaces safer and less deadly, and I suggest maybe the workers ought to join together in some kind of worker's lobby or union or somesuch to try and advocate for greater on the job safety.

    But as for needless and preventable deaths go, the 4,551 Americans killed in one year pales in comparison to the 30,000+ Americans who die EVERY YEAR from fatal gunshot injuries (check the CDC if you want to verify how many Americans die of gunshot injuries every year).  Only a small percentage of these deaths are the result of police action or crime victims defending themselves against predators.  This annual and needless loss of American lives occurs primarily to support the profits of the gun industry.

    Americans are right to be outraged by 4,551 workplace fatalities occurring in one year.  Some outrage should also be expressed as every year we kill of SIX TIMES that many Americans with preventable gunshot injuries.

    "The fool doth think he is wise: the wise man knows himself to be a fool" - W. Shakespeare

    by Hugh Jim Bissell on Mon May 21, 2012 at 09:26:52 AM PDT

    •  Important to note (5+ / 0-)

      but you're hijacking this diary, which is about labor protections, regulations, and Republican opposition to them. The issue you mention could and should could be the subject of your own separate diary.

      We don't need to start one-upping each other on which cause-of-death is more worthy of being addressed. They ALL need to be addressed.

    •  That's nothing!!! 400,000+ Americans are killed (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      every year from smoking!  And don't get me started on "old age", the silent killer!  We should obviously ignore all other causes of death and focus solely on those two!

      Sure, I acknowledge lots  of people in the US die needlessly each year as a result of gun violence, but I suggest they just move to another country, where firearm laws are more restrictive.

  •  Thanks for the diary. (5+ / 0-)

    "Such is the irresistible nature of truth that all it asks, and all it wants, is the liberty of appearing." - Thomas Paine

    by blueoregon on Mon May 21, 2012 at 09:35:05 AM PDT

  •  Even sadder to contemplate (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dirtandiron, Larsstephens, Mostel26

    is the probability that the families of those workers received very little in return for the loss of their loved ones.

    After all, profit is king....

    OK. And now we begin the part of the show where we pull out individual words and phrases of the commenter to try to determine the "real" meaning of the comment.... let the games begin.

    by hillbrook green on Mon May 21, 2012 at 10:16:11 AM PDT

  •  A series could be done on this topic (3+ / 0-)

    similar to the IGTNT series, but providing vignettes of workers killed each week.  

    Oregon:'s cold. But it's a damp cold.

    by Keith930 on Sat Jun 09, 2012 at 07:06:18 PM PDT

    •  The Weekly Toll (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Keith930, cocinero

      The Weekly Toll. Originally started by Jordan Barab at his health and safety blog, Confined Space, now the work is continued by the folks at United Support and Memorial for Workplace Fatalities (USMWF), all of whom have lost a loved one in a workplace death.

      "Salvation for a race, nation or class must come from within. Freedom is never granted; it is won. Justice is never given; it is exacted." A. Phillip Randolph

      by Savage on Sat Jun 09, 2012 at 07:30:27 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Yep Golf solves everything (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Doctor Mitt Romney Brain Sturgeon-The Operation was a success but the patient died, where's my fee?

    by JML9999 on Sat Jun 09, 2012 at 07:08:29 PM PDT

  •  Bothersome regulation (5+ / 0-)

    This is why the 1 percent aren't creating jobs.  When we end all regulation, when 50,000 or 100,000 die each year without beauracrats interfering, when the job creators can pay their workers 50 cents an hour to work 12 hour days, when we abolish taxes on the job creators, then we will see the Republican Koch Brothers utopia.  

    "We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals, now we know that it is bad economics." Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jan. 20, 1937

    by Navy Vet Terp on Sat Jun 09, 2012 at 07:11:59 PM PDT

  •  How many inspectors (0+ / 0-)

    Did Bush fire?

    To get America back on top we need to put Americans first.

    Health, safety, ethics.

    Get it right.

    F*ck those idiots and the voters they rode in on.

    by roninkai on Sat Jun 09, 2012 at 07:32:33 PM PDT

  •  And Those Fatalities Were Overwhelmingly Men (0+ / 0-)

    Discuss amongst yourselves.

    There’s always free cheddar in a mousetrap, baby

    by bernardpliers on Sat Jun 09, 2012 at 08:02:47 PM PDT

  •  A year before I retired the paint system (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    had BIG problems getting the cars painted. A major rework was needed. I asked for and, got  the Hazmet sheet on cutting and welding on elpo treated steel.

    I told the boss I needed a welding hood that had a filter, and the job needed to be done outside. Everyone thought I had had over reached. To this day I think that I did not.

    "Behold the Turtle, it only makes Progress when it sticks it's neck Out."

    by vzfk3s on Sat Jun 09, 2012 at 08:17:13 PM PDT

  •  Stamping presses. (7+ / 0-)

    Just a story.
    In the Michigan plant I worked at (a long time ago-a different era) we made car parts that were formed in hydraulic stamping presses. You took a flat sheet of metal from a bin, laid it into the formed die, and pushed a button to cycle the die in the top part of the hydraulic press downward.
    After stamping the metal, you removed the formed piece, laid in another, pushed a button, and so on.
    Sometimes you didn't position the flat metal correctly. Sometimes, because of the mind numbing repetition, it felt like you and the machine worked in unison.
    A woman 60 feet away, in the day-long hypnotic repetition, lost track of the sequence. She reached in to straighten the metal, after she pushed the button.
    Her arm was crushed flat.
    One small result of stamping press safety is that machines like that have two buttons located apart that have to be pressed together at the same time. That way, your hands have to be on the buttons, not somewhere else. (It's probably done robotically now, that accident was decades ago).
    Multiply that old safety requirement into the thousands, and that's just a fraction of what OSHA does to protect working people. They need more inspectors, more funding. Not less. Take it from somebody who was there.

  •  In the Republican mindset, those 4,500 fatalities (4+ / 0-)

    created 4,500 new jobs, my friend.

    The problem for the Republicans is that they can't get scientists to figure out how to get women to give birth to more old white guys.

    by jazzmaniac on Sat Jun 09, 2012 at 08:19:03 PM PDT

  •  If you want your hair to curl (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Horace Boothroyd III

    about workplace accidents, check out Frontline's A Dangerous Business. It talks about MacWane Industries, which manufactured sewer pipes, and was a nightmare of workplace accidents.

  •  These deaths take place on private property, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Horace Boothroyd III, tobendaro

    and under a Romney presidency, this entire country would have a target on its back for takeover by private interests-- regulations?  Begone!  Public property?  A thing of the past!  Public safety and health?  We're only in the business of being in business-- quit yer cryin!  You think this plant isn't safe?  You're fired!

    That's one more thing to add to my long list of small problems. --my son, age 10

    by concernedamerican on Sat Jun 09, 2012 at 09:30:47 PM PDT

  •  There is another side to the story. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    The after stories.  In Pa you have two choices when there is a workplace accident.  You can sue the company living on nothing while waiting the 10 years it takes to get a settlement or you can take the Workman's compensation.  In my case the WC was very adequate and I took it after my husband died in a fall at his work.  I thought we would lose it when I remarried but my children continued to receive it until the last one turned 23 1/2.  Except that #2 was disabled before that age and he is entitled to the compensation until no longer disabled or he dies.  We have been to court 8 times with our lawyer to fight the insurance company who wants to stop the compensation.  The insurance companies who pay out the money will fight you after the company lawyers get done with you.  A never ending battle.

    And she's good at appearing sane, I just want you to know. Winwood/Capaldi

    by tobendaro on Sun Jun 10, 2012 at 04:25:26 AM PDT

  •  i am sure the koch brothers are concerned (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    get prepared, it's going to get way worse if the right wing has their way.  I see worker safety, environmental protections going away.  Children working in factories again and 12 hour days returning.  also minimum wage will be crushed.  once we are on an equal basis with china then all sorts of jobs will come back though very few will be able to survive past 50.   and if you object you'll be arrested, probably water boarded or disappeared. Welcome to the right wing vision of amerika.

    "The real wealth of a nation consists of the contributions of its people and nature." -- Rianne Eisler

    by noofsh on Sun Jun 10, 2012 at 05:44:50 AM PDT

  •  A bit misleading, many were not in workplace (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    The deaths occurred while on the job, but many occurred on public roads, as a passenger on a plane while traveling for work, etc.

    I was curious about the leading causes of deaths among workers.  By far the largest group occurs due to "transportation accidents."  The second largest group is "Assaults and violent acts."  These categories account for about half of all those deaths.  Sadly, though some could have been prevented, many were the consequence of living in an age when liquor store clerks are shot for a $55 haul, and people spend way too much time in cars.

    It seems a bit odd that the 263 suicides committed on the job were included, but that just shows how the data is compiled.  There were 2.5 times more people who chose to kill themselves on the job than ones that died in fires or explosions.  Of course, your job can cause you to end it all, but suicide is also one of the leading causes of death among visitors to National Parks.

    Some good news:  the number of work-related fatalities has come down 27% since 1992, even though there are many more people working, though possibly fewer in some of the riskiest jobs.

    Just want to provide a bit of a perspective on what the numbers represent.  Any rollback of worker protections is to be fought.  In the teaparty paradise, occupational deaths will go to zero because no one will be counting them.

  •  but if you count Iraqi civilian deaths... nt (0+ / 0-) (Punk, Technology, politics-my blog)

    by greenpunx on Sun Jun 10, 2012 at 10:11:37 AM PDT

  •  GOP platform (0+ / 0-)

    Republican Party of Iowa:

    We call for the elimination of the Federal agency, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

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