Tough Year for Working Americans as Disasters Continue
Posted: 06-07-10Category:We're not even halfway through 2010 and it has already been a disastrous year for American workers, particularly those working in the oil, gas, coal, and construction industries. First came the April 5th Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster where a a coal mining accident which killed 29 Massey Energy Miners. It was the worst U.S. mining disaster in decades. Then, three weeks later, came the Deepwater Horizon Disaster where an offshore drilling rig operating in the Gulf of Mexico exploded and burst into flames on April 20, 2010 killing 11 platform workers, injuring at least 17 others, and crippling the economic livelihoods of thousands of additional workers along the Gulf Coast. Next, on June 7, 2010, in Cleburne, Texas, another workplace tragedy--a natural gas line erupted killing one worker and injuring several others, lighting up the sky with a tower of orange flames, officials said. Workers apparently hit an underground line about 50 miles south of Dallas while digging. According to witnesses, the heat was "unbearable," even 300 yards from the flames. A column of gray smoke was visible miles away. Six people were taken to hospitals, Johnson County Emergency Management Coordinator Jack Snow, said. Then, on the same day as the Cleburne gas explosion, June 7, 2010, back in West Virgina, seven more workers were burned when a crew drilling a natural gas well through an abandoned coal mine in West Virginia hit a pocket of methane gas that ignited, triggering an explosion. The explosion happened about 1:30 a.m. in a rural area about 55 miles southwest of Pittsburgh. A column of fire shot at least 70 feet high. Then, on June 8th, two more workers were killed from a natural gas pipeline explosion. Lipscomb County Sheriff James Robertson said in a news release Tuesday that the men were killed shortly after the blast in a remote part of the region. Three people were injured. One was taken by helicopter to a hospital in Oklahoma City. The five men involved in the latest accident were moving clay from a pit near the pipeline when a bulldozer struck it, causing the explosion about 270 miles northeast of Lubbock. Why are all of these American workplace disasters happening lately? American companies today have access to more safety information, and better training and equipment than they have ever had, yet companies are killing and injuring American workers at rates not seen since the earliest days of the Industrial Revolution. Why? There seems to be a familiar pattern emerging. Companies are cutting costs and expenses to the bone; rushing projects, and hurrying workers to perform at unsafe work rates to save money and pump up the companies' quarterly profits; and, ignoring or stretching established safety rules. This has led to an unprecedented string of American workplace deaths and injuries so far this year, and there appears to be no sign of a slowdown. Is America becoming another Third World Country, like China, that sacrifices the lives of its workers on the altar of productivity? There was a time in American industrial history when Americans could be proud not only of the quality of American products, but also of the level and degree of safety protection afforded American workers. Those days appear to be coming to an end as global competition drives corporations (which are often foreign owned) to cut costs and ramp up production levels to unsafe speeds, with deadly results for American Workers. How are we, as Americans, going to deal with the problem of increasingly dangerous workplaces? What is it going to take to get these large multi-national corporations to pay closer attention to the safety of ordinary working Americans? These are questions that American juries are going to have to seriously consider as they judge the conduct of these corporations and evaluate the damage done to the widows, orphans, and surviving parents of all those lost in this latest string of American workplace tragedies. The American System of Justice has always relied on juries of ordinary Americans to set the standards expected of companies who operate for profit in our communities. With the death and injury toll to American workers rising at the highest rate in decades, we're going to need those juries more than ever.