Fatal Employment?

By SETH SANDRONSKY
Go to work and die in the US? The answer is yes for 4,821 workers who
lost their lives on the job in 2014 versus 4,582 in 2013, a 5.1% jump,
according to a new report, “Preventable Deaths 2016,” from the
National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (NCOSH), a
20-group federation, citing federal Labor Dept. data.

One-third of workplace fatalities in 2014 occurred among folks 55
years and older. Further, 802 contract, or temporary workers, died on
the job in 2014, 16.7% of the overall total, and a 7% increase versus
the 749 contracted workers who lost their lives while employed in
2013.

“Contract and temporary workers are frequently assigned to the most
hazardous jobs on many worksites,” according to the NCOSH report.
Jamie Hoyt was a 58-year-old contract worker who died on a day labor
job in Hackensack, New Jersey on Nov. 30, 2012.

Mary Jo Hoyt, his sister and a registered nurse, in a press call with
reporters, shared Jamie’s fate while laboring with other workers
moving 2,500 pounds of tall computer servers. The equipment fell and
crushed him to death.

“He couldn’t get out of the way fast enough,” said Mary Jo. Jamie’s
employer was a temporary worker firm, Labor Ready, which contracted
with a truck driver who contracted with a trucking firm that
subcontracted with Verizon, which owned the servers.

Mary Jo described the circumstances of Jamie’s preventable death at
the job site in Pearl River, N.Y. “Industry best practice is to
disassemble computer servers to transport in smaller, individual
pieces,” Mary Jo said.

That practice did not occur. Additionally, the contract truck driver
supervised Jamie and his two co-workers moving the Verizon servers.

Verizon reaps the benefit of cheap labor services. Contract workers
such as Jamie Hoyt pay the ultimate price for such a low-wage labor
scheme.

Business failure to observe safety practices is not a fluke but part
of a larger pattern of workplace injuries and fatalities, according to
Mary Jo. “There is no accountability in this contracting and
subcontracting system,” she said.

In 2014, for the first year in a while, fatalities of Hispanic or
Latino workers declined by 3% versus 2013. “Deaths among white,
African-American and Asian workers,” according to the NCOSH report,
“however, were all higher in 2014 than in 2013.”

Long-term work-related sickness and deaths occur after paid employment
ends, the NCOSH report details. Over 95,000 US workers died from
long-term occupational diseases in 2008, according to the research of
top experts, the report cites.

The US Occupational Safety and Health Act that Congress established on
April 28, 1971, lacks enough resources to inspect workplaces to ensure
employers’ compliance with conditions that can harm and kill workers,
according to Jessica E. Martinez, the Los Angeles-based acting
executive director for the NCOSH.

“This is a wake-up call to take control of the workplace situation,”
Martinez said. “We need more worker-involved safety programs and
resources for OSHA enforcement.”

The involvement of workers in making their workplaces safer is
critical, according to Martinez. NCOSH’s new report is at:
http://nationalcosh.org/.

Seth Sandronsky is a journalist and member of the Pacific Media
Workers Guild. Email: sethsandronsky@gmail.com.

From The Progressive Populist, June 1, 2016. http://www.populist.com/22.10.sandronsky.html

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