A Daily Reminder That Thousands Die In Preventable Workplace Deaths Every Year

Five days a week, I receive the Cal-OSHA Reporter News Digest, which compiles reports of deaths and injuries in California as well as other states. It’s a regular reminder that I am a lucky man to have worked my entire life in think tanks, government offices, and law firms. Every issue is filled with grim stories of workers mangled by machinery, suffocated by corn in a silo, killed in falls or struck by a careless driver as they worked on the highway, or sometimes, killed in ways so horrible that it beggars the imagination. On any given day, dozens of people are killed in the workplace, and the Cal-OSHA reporter captures only a few of these stories. It does not, and cannot, begin to capture the extent of workplace injuries, since for every one death there are a thousand injuries. And the toll from occupational illness is too slow and insidious to capture, though silicosis, black lung, asbestos disease, and cancer from hundreds of toxic chemicals kill an estimated 50,000 workers every year. Today’s Cal-OSHA Reporter was typical—a perfect reminder that American workers are not sufficiently protected from harm, that OSHA and its sister agencies in the states face an overwhelming challenge with far too few resources, and that employers that put their employees’ lives at risk and take them from their families forever are rarely punished in a way that meets the enormity of what they did or allowed to happen.

As you read this partial list of daily tragedies, I hope you’ll reflect on the people who tend to be killed or injured in the workplace—such as immigrants, the very young and the elderly—and the people doing jobs that don’t pay very much, never enough to compensate for the risks they incur.

Dallas Maintenance Worker Dies After Falling Down Elevator Shaft
A maintenance worker was killed Friday night after falling down an elevator shaft in a downtown Dallas parking garage.

Minnesota: Bar Safety for Late Night Workers
Just months ago a 73-year-old Willow River, Minn. bartender was robbed and pistol whipped as she readied the bar for closure. In 1999 a 19-year-old woman was kidnapped from a Moose Lake convenience store and brutally murdered. The heinous crime sparked lawmakers and concerned citizens to push for regulation for convenience store workers throughout the state but did little to change behavior in bars that stay open into the wee hours of the morning.

Investigation of Fatal Grinder Accident Continues
Fed-OSHA continues to investigate four months after a 43-year-old tree service worker was killed in a stump grinder accident in Portsmouth, N.H.

Massachusetts Bakery Fined Following Fatal Machine Incident
Fed-OSHA has issued citations and $20,790 in penalties to a Malden, Mass. bakery for serious safety violations, three months after a 61-year-old worker was strangled when her apron apparently became caught in a conveyor belt.” The Lowell Sun reports that Yogambigai Pasupathipillai was an immigrant from Sri Lanka. “It’s like someone was hanged to death at the company they worked for,” said Thiru Sachi, Pasupathipillai’s sole family member in the country. “She was very careful at work … it’s very hard to take it.”