Workplace Deaths

WORKPLACE DEATHS….Terrific New York Times story today about workplace deaths and the fact that no one really seems to give a damn about them:

Over a span of two decades, from 1982 to 2002, OSHA investigated 1,242 of these horror stories ? instances in which the agency itself concluded that workers had died because of their employer’s “willful” safety violations. Yet in 93 percent of those cases, OSHA declined to seek prosecution, an eight-month examination of workplace deaths by The New York Times has found.

What is more, having avoided prosecution once, at least 70 employers willfully violated safety laws again, resulting in scores of additional deaths. Even these repeat violators were rarely prosecuted.

So OSHA doesn’t prosecute even “willful” safety violations, the EPA seems to have given up on prosecuting violations of environmental laws, the BATF is constrained from seriously prosecuting gun law violations, and of course the IRS auditing division was emasculated years ago and no longer has the manpower to investigate any but a handful of tax cheats. Notice a trend?

Here in the worker’s paradise of California, of course, one part of our famously anti-business climate is a state OSHA that acutally does prosecute cases like this: we prosecute nearly a third of “willful” cases, the highest rate in the nation. It must really suck to be a business that willfully endangers its employees in California.

It’s a 3-part series: yesterday was a profile of a worker who was killed in a workplace accident, today is stats day, and a case study of California is coming tomorrow. It’s all worth reading.

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