Since 1982 there have been over 170,000 workplace deaths in the United States. Less than a quarter of those deaths were even investigated by federal and state safety regulators, and only 196 of these cases were ever referred to prosecutors. Only 16–less than 1 out of every 10,000 deaths–ever resulted in a conviction which carried a jail sentence.
Who is dying? Men.
Because over 90% of those dying in industrial accidents are men, perhaps it is not surprising that under federal law it is only a misdemeanor to cause a worker’s death by willfully violating safety laws. Or that in all but a few states the median penalty assessed on an employer for a worker’s death is less than $25,000 per death. Or that companies are often permitted to repeatedly allow workers to be maimed or killed without fear of genuine disciplinary action.
The New York Times recently published an informative three part series which explored this modern tragedy and exposed the indifference with which the government at all levels deals with worker safety.
Jordan Barab , who spent 16 years running the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees’ health and safety program, and Barry Wood, a retired carpenter, discussed worker safety.
To learn more about worker safety issues, see the New York Times series: Part 1: A Trench Caves In; a Young Worker Is Dead. Is It a Crime? ; Part 2: When Workers Die: US Rarely Seeks Charges for Deaths in Workplace; Part 3: California Leads in Making Employer Pay for Job Deaths.
Also, see Jordan Barab’s Blog Confined Space, which is devoted to “News and Commentary on Workplace Health & Safety, Labor and Politics.”
Glenn has written about worker safety issues and the sacrifices men make to support their families on several occasions, and has also discussed his own experiences working as a carpenter and a construction worker. See Glenn’s columns The Price of Fatherhood–a Father’s Reply to Ann Crittenden’s Mothers’ Manifesto’ (Los Angeles Daily Journal, San Francisco Daily Journal, 1/10/02), Men, Women and Work (IFeminists, 3/18/03), and Hate My Father? No Ma’am! (World Net Daily, 4/8/02).