Today marks the international day of remembrance and action for workers killed, disabled, injured or made unwell by their work. According to the International Labor Organization,
- Each year, more than two million women and men die as a result of work-related accidents and diseases
- Workers suffer approximately 270 million occupational accidents each year, and fall victim to some 160 million incidents of work-related illnesses
- Hazardous substances kill 440,000 workers annually – asbestos claims 100,000 lives
- One worker dies every 15 seconds worldwide. 6,000 workers die every day. More people die while at work than those fighting wars.
The slogan for the day is Remember the dead – Fight for the living, or as Mother Jones had it, “Pray for the dead, fight like hell for the living.”
If you know anyone who was injured on the job, or were yourself, you know that in hazardous situations, whether at work or not, there aren’t many second chances. A workplace poster I saw once said “Safety is No Accident.” Students in asbestos class used to ask me where and when I did mine (many instructors are up there talking about things they’ve never done themselves, and get less respect). I’d tell them that I did my demolition work in what I refer to as the “before time,” prior to there being any regulations. No training, no respirators, goggles, suits, hardhats, boots; maybe a dust mask (which won’t keep out asbestos fibers, lead dust, mold spores, or chemicals, and just gives one a false sense of security). They just handed you a crowbar and said “Kid, go rip that shit out.”
And speaking of chemicals, when I think back to the working conditions when I was in the electronics industry in the ’70s, I’m glad I’m in pretty good shape, because I probably got my lifetime dose of everything back then. When I hear people talking about what a great idea deregulation is, I just want to slap them upside the head. In many cases they didn’t know any better back then, but these days there’s no excuse. The most common OSHA violation is hazard communication training. Job-specific hazards are supposed to be discussed with workers before conducting the work, and any hazardous chemical products used on the job require prior training in how to read the label and the material safety data sheet (MSDS). Pay attention to what training they do provide, ask questions and do research to find out if you should be getting more, and what equipment you’re required to be provided, etc., because it’s YOUR life. Hell, ask questions here, that’s what I’m for, as a sort of “don’t let this happen to YOU” example. I need to figure out if WordPress has features that’ll allow me to set up a Q&A column.
So, be safe out there and look out for Number One. I wanna see ya back here next year for your refresher training, with all yer parts intact. Don’t wanna have to start calling anybody “Lefty.”