Monday, August 25, 2008

What is the Value of a Life?

What is the Value of a Construction Worker?

The post below from The Hattiesburg American emphasizes the relatively low fines issued by OSHA to the two companies responsible for the deaths of four workers due to unsafe practices during trenching operations.

The fines were $12,700 for the one fatality and possibly $65,450 (this one will probably be reduced after an appeal to OSHA.) This total of $78,150 equals an average value for the life of a worker at $19,450. I'm far from a mathematician, but in my calculations a worker earning $12.21 per hour would make that much in 40 weeks. Is 40 weeks' earnings worth a man's life???

There are many ways to calculate the value of a 30 something old person, but the emphasis I'm trying to bring forth is that it is a paltry sum for a life of a worker. This is an appaling look, by OSHA, as to the value of a life.

Findings, companies' carelessness troubling

Last March, within a couple of weeks of each other, four workers in Hattiesburg died in two separate accidents that involved the collapse of a ditch.

Last week, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration found that the two companies involved were responsible, between them, for eight safety violations.

The findings are troubling and point to what appear to be deadly carelessness on the part of the companies, companies that should have known better. OSHA spells out the requirements for this kind of excavation work; there is nothing ambiguous about them.

On Friday, OSHA found American Air Specialists responsible for four serious and one willful violation of its safety standards. American Air is facing proposed fines of $65,450, and has 15 days to contest the citations.

On March 21, Leonardo Navarro Diaz, 30, of Sumrall; Brandon Edward Rathbone, 19, of Hattiesburg; and Wayne Dale Kelly, 55, of Columbia; employees of American Air Specialists, died when the trench collapsed as they were connecting a sewer line in the Hattiesburg Industrial Park.

A similar accident happened on March 13 in Lamar County when a ditch collapsed on Tim Bright, 38, of Purvis. He later died. Bright was employed by L&A Contracting of Hattiesburg, a prominent local heavy construction firm that has an extensive portfolio of projects in the Southeast.

L&A already has paid fines of $12,700 for three serious violations, and says it has made the fixes OSHA mandated. For Mr. Bright, these remedies come too late.

In the case of American Air, it is facing a fine of $49,000 for "allowing employees to work in an excavation without using a protective shoring system" - the willful, and most serious, of OSHA's violations.

Both companies were taken to task for not providing employees sufficient training in hazardous conditions and for not assigning a "competent" person to inspect the trench.

Said Clyde Payne, director of OSHA's Jackson office, of the American Air citations: "Trenching and excavation work creates hazards to employees, but this tragedy could have been prevented by competent supervisors who would have recognized the hazard and installed a protective system, rather than ignoring the potential danger."

Here's the thing: All employers have an obligation to provide for the safety of their workers. It is one of their sacred trusts (even L&A acknowledges that, saying that part of its mission is to provide a "safe working environment for all of L & A's employees.")

When ignored in such a basic way - no inspection of the site, as required by OSHA; insufficient training, as required by OSHA; no trench protection, all required by OSHA - the companies deserve to be hammered by OSHA. It is truly unfathomable- and unconscionable - that these companies did not provide these very basic protections for its workers.

Tim Bright deserved better. So did Leonardo Navarro Diaz, Brandon Edward Rathbone and Wayne Dale Kelly.

1 comment:

Farhan Jaffry said...

OSHA keeps their eyes open, they would not let construction companies to risk workers lives and they wll penalize even a small violation so that construction companies show some responsibilty from their end and provide adequate <a href=">osha trainin online</a>.