A few days after print publication, Knight's syndicated newspaper column, which moves twice a week, will be posted. The most recent will appear at the top.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Report underscores importance of Workers Memorial Day

Bill Knight column for Mon., Tues. or Wed., April 25, 26 or 27

Workers Memorial Day will be marked from coast to coast on Thursday (April 28) with marches, rallies and solemn remembrances of everyday workers who’ve been injured or killed on the job, and a new report from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) lends timeliness and credence to those memories and concerns.

Nationally, sobering statistics show that risks at work aren’t confined to history books. Thousands of U.S. workers last year were casualties of workplace dangers.

OSHA has reported that 2,644 workers lost fingers, arms and legs through amputations requiring hospitalization last year, and an additional 7,636 suffered on-the-job injuries needing hospitalization.

“In a small Illinois town, a worker at a food processing plant was hospitalized after his arm was mangled in a screw conveyor,” the federal agency reported. “Following an inspection that resulted in citations, the plant installed guards and handrails around the machinery, added a nitrogen monitoring system for another part of the plant, and conducted extensive employee training.

“Then he urged other employers in the area to check for hazards and invited OSHA to make a presentation to the local Chamber of Commerce,” the report added.

The report also shows OSHA found previously unsuspected patterns of injuries and amputations in entire industries, citing dozens of fingertip amputations suffered by workers at food slicers in Southern grocery store delis and restaurants.

“Too often, we would investigate a fatal injury only to find a history of serious injuries at the same workplace,” the report said. “Each of those injuries was a wake-up call for safety that went unheeded.”

And, as other studies demonstrate – notably of Michigan workers’ comp claims – employers vastly underreport on-the-job injuries. The report estimated that half of such severe injuries may go unreported, especially since this report covered only large firms.

The report also reflected findings from the first year of a new OSHA rule ordering employers to report within 24 hours any time a worker suffers any on-the-job injury requiring hospitalization. Before 2015, the agency required prompt reports, within eight hours, only if a worker died. That mandate stayed the same.

The point of the new rule was to pressure employers to clean up their acts on their own. However, the report has revealed an epidemic of severe on-the-job injuries.

For example, slaughtering and processing plants were seventh on OSHA’s list of groups of companies with such injuries last year, as 213 workers were severely injured in those facilities. That figure trailed “foundation, structure and building exterior contractors,” with 391 severe injuries, building equipment contractors (343), mining support activities (325), nonresidential building contractors (271), the U.S. Postal Service (229), hospitals (221) and grocery stores (215). Another 16 groups of firms had from 100 to 201 severe injuries each.

For details on Workers Memorial Day, go to

[PICTURED: Graphic from Catholic-Labor Network.]

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