Workplace deaths rise as California's economy recovers: Part II

Workplace deaths rise as California's economy recovers: Part II

In our last post, we began a discussion about data showing that as California’s economy has recovered in recent years, the rates of workplace injuries and deaths have risen accordingly. This is especially prominent in “boom” industries like construction, warehousing and heavy manufacturing.

Some correlation between employment rates and accident rates is expected, but the two are not inextricably linked. Often, workplace deaths and injuries occur because employers become more concerned with high production than with the safety of their workers.

There are many, real-life examples to illustrate this problem, but one seems to be particularly poignant. It is the story of a 2013 workplace accident that killed a 59-year-old worker at a Rialto concrete pipe manufacturing company. The story was profiled in a recent Press-Enterprise article.

According to the man’s widow, he took the job after being laid off and out of work for more than two years during the Great Recession. It was a very physically demanding job, and one that required laborers to work on and around heavy machinery and giant concrete pipes.

Newly cast sections of pipe needed to be removed from their casts and delivered from the factory to outdoor storage areas. They were transported by high-capacity forklifts which are much larger than those typically seen warehouse settings. Because of the distance between the factory and the storage areas, workers would often ride on the machinery by hanging onto the sides or by sitting in areas other than the cab.

Such practices are inherently unsafe, and the manufacturers of these vehicles warn against passengers riding in any area outside of the cab. Nonetheless, managers often expected workers to hitch rides on the equipment because it allowed them to complete more work, more quickly.

Just two weeks after warning his wife that someone was going to get killed because of these unsafe practices, the man fell off the forklift and was crushed underneath its tires. His death was attributed to unsafe practices and exhaustion.

This story is a classic example of how fatal workplace accidents occur. Safety protocols get ignored because they slow down the pace of production. Sooner or later, someone gets seriously injured or killed. Until or unless companies are held accountable for these unsafe practices, such injuries and deaths will continue to occur.

Source: The Press Enterprise, “ WORKPLACE SAFETY: As economy recovers, workplace deaths rise,” David Danelski, Oct. 27, 2014

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