Confined Space commemorates Workers’ Memorial Day:
On March 23, 2005, a huge explosion ripped through the giant BP Amoco refinery in Texas City, Texas, killing 15 contract workers. Twelve of the workers were in an office trailer located in the middle of the blast zone. As with most workplace fatalities, illnesses and injuries, these deaths were preventable. While a full investigation won’t be completed for many months, it is clear that refinery officials were aware that the process was outdated and hazardous. Refinery officials and the contractor were also aware of the trailer’s hazardous location.
Today, April 28, is Workers Memorial Day. Across the country, workers and labor unions will pause to remember the 15 Texas City employees and the more than 5,500 other workers killed in workplace incidents over the past year. Between 50 and 60 thousand workers perished from work-related illnesses caused by toxic materials like asbestos close to five million suffered injuries and illnesses. The toll is enormous: according to Liberty Mutual, the nation’s largest workers’ compensation insurance company, the direct cost of occupational injury and illness is $1 billion per week, with indirect costs many times higher. Congress passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act 35 years ago to assure “every working man and woman in the nation safe and healthful working conditions.” Among the tools given to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) were the authorization “to set mandatory occupational safety and health standards” and the ability to penalize those who break the laws. But instead of making progress in workplace safety over the past several years, the Bush administration has taken the country backwards. In the workplace safety field, the Bush administration’s aim to make workplace safety issues less “confrontational” is transforming this country from a nation of laws to a nation of fact sheets and web pages.