Fatal Employment


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


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