So why did the media choose to cover around the clock a terrorist bombing that killed fewer people and is extremely rare while all but ignoring an industrial explosion that killed more people, is far more common and is far easier to prevent? …death in the workplace is a much more real possibility for almost all Americans than is death at the hands of a terrorist. In 2011, 4,609 Americans were killed in workplace accidents while only 17 Americans died at the hands of terrorists — about the same number as were crushed to death by their televisions or furniture. One could argue that terrorists get more attention because they intentionally aim to kill people, but disasters like at Upper Big Branch are also the result of companies violating workplace safety laws.
Mike Elk: The Texas fertilizer plant explosion cannot be forgotten
Texas has always prided itself on its free-market posture. It is the only state that does not require companies to contribute to workers’ compensation coverage. It boasts the largest city in the country, Houston, with no zoning laws. It does not have a state fire code, and it prohibits smaller counties from having such codes. Some Texas counties even cite the lack of local fire codes as a reason for companies to move there.
But Texas has also had the nation’s highest number of workplace fatalities — more than 400 annually — for much of the past decade.
A 29-year psychiatric nurse, who requested that his name not be used for fear of his employer’s reaction, reports that there are always two to three nurses out of 30 absent due to workplace injuries in the closed psychiatric unit where he works. He reports that the mental health patients he sees are younger and stronger, while showing higher levels of violence, than those in the past. In his career this nurse has suffered a broken ankle, a scratched face, a beating resulting in 12 stitches in his head, and an assault to his jaw requiring two-and-a-half-weeks’ medical leave. As hospital workplace violence increases, he fears that fewer young people will be interested in becoming nurses.
If you haven’t heard of it, The Outhouse maintains a benevolent public service website called HasDCDoneSomethingStupidToday.com and its purpose should be fairly easy to figure out. It’s a lot of work to keep track of how many times DC screws up, often in easily avoidable ways and usually in spectacular fashion. One morning, over a hot cup of black coffee in The Outhouse Newsroom, a plan was hatched to definitively track these blunders in the style of a workplace accident sign. A few hours and some hastily written HTML and PHP later, HasDCDoneSomethingStupidToday.com was born, and legions of fans wondering how long its been since DC last committed an epic PR fail or drove beloved creators from the company have been able to find out with one click ever since.
Here are seven of the biggest stories of 2013 (in no particular order):
June is National Safety Month and the National Archives will be celebrating Safety and Health Week June 8-12 in the Washington, DC area. usnatarchives staff have contributed some of their favorite health and safety related documents to help get us started, including this vintage World War II-era poster featuring a somewhat confused welder.
On Tuesday, McDonald’s workers throughout the U.S. protested the corporation’s unsafe working conditions, claiming they were instructed to treat workplace burns with condiments like mustard and mayonnaise. The protests come after McDonald’s workers announced Monday that they’ve filed 28 health and safety complaints in nearly 20 cities against the company.
Bangladesh Industrial Zones – Rana Plaza collapse: workplace dangers persist three years later
and activists say working conditions have hardly improved for garment
workers since the Bangladesh factory collapse killed 1,138 people.
more than three years since 1,138 workers were killed when the Rana
Plaza factory collapsed in Bangladesh, yet little progress has been made
to improve labor conditions for garment workers, according to the Asia
Floor Wage Alliance.
Since the fatal collapse, considered the world’s worst garment
factory disaster, many workers have been found to still work long hours
in overheated factories without proper fire exits, according to two
reports from the alliance of research and advocacy groups looking at the
working conditions within the supply chain at H&M, Gap, Walmart and
After the Rana plaza collapse, H&M was the first and the largest
brand to sign on to the 2013 Accord on Fire and Building Safety in
Bangladesh. The accord is a legally binding agreement, which encompasses
over 1,600 factories. An independent inspectorate has been established
to monitor whether the factories have implemented the corrective action
plans set out after the Rana Plaza collapse.
Walmart, however, has refused to sign on to the accord and instead,
in partnership with the Gap, founded the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker
Safety, which is a voluntary organization.
Despite the binding nature of the accord, progress has been slow .
Just seven out of the 1,660 factories have completed implementing their
corrective action plans and another 57 factories are on track with the
plans. About 1,388 factories are behind schedule, while 186 factories
have yet to finalize their corrective action plans and 22 have not
implemented them at all.
“Due to failed compliance with the accord, 78,842 garment workers in
Bangladesh continue to produce garments for H&M in buildings without
We were about to put our hands through a whole new type of hurt. I was soon tearing through more than 7,000 chicken breasts each night (I worked the graveyard shift), while nearby workers sliced up countless birds with knives and scissors. The massive plant was capable of killing and processing nearly 1.5 million birds a week, and the pace was as relentless as such numbers suggest. We often didn’t even have time to wipe bits of chicken flesh from our faces, and I took to popping ibuprofen during breaks to quell the swelling in my hands.
One (worker) was unable to hold a glass of water; another had three surgeries on her wrists; a third had discovered, after a visit to the doctor, that her thumb joint had almost disappeared after twelve years of line work. She told me her doctor had taken a vein from her leg and wrapped it around her thumb in an attempt to replace the missing cartilage. “Everyone on the line had hand problems,” she said.
When the government set the maximum line speed at poultry plants—currently it’s ninety-one birds a minute—it failed to take worker safety into consideration. Instead, the limit was determined by the US Department of Agriculture, based on food safety concerns. And here’s something even worse: in January the USDA proposed a new method for poultry inspection that would allow plants to run lines at 175 birds a minute. That’s nearly double the current limit.