Worker Safety Railroaded

Today is Workers Memorial Day, a day of commemoration for the thousands of people who die from workplace injuries every year. Like the 29 miners recently killed in West Virginia, or the 11 killed in the oil rig explosion this week. And like the 5,214 people killed on the job in 2008. And the 50,000 who died from occupational illnesses. Sadly, we can add two more workers to the toll from railroad accidents in the last few days.

Melinda Carter, killed on the job, April 24, 2010.

Melinda Carter, a conductor for the CSX Railroad, was killed while switching cars in a rail yard in Chicago. Early reports indicate that she was operating the trains using remote control technology, as is increasingly required of workers. She had just bought a new home for her family, for whom she was a rock. A few days later, New York Transit worker James Knell was electrocuted by the third rail while conducting track repair in the pouring rain. He had been married for two years with his high school sweetheart, after being apart for two decades.

I’ve written before about some of the particular dangers that rail workers face, and how the nature of their work means that dangers to them also represent dangers to all of us. But today I would like to ask all of us to consider the safety conditions at our workplaces, and the safety conditions of the work others are doing for us. Take the extra step to insist your employer provide protective gear (this works better if you are in a union, but even nonunion employers are required to provide a safe workplace). If you hired some guy to trim your trees or work on your roof, insist they work safely too. Pay extra for it if you have to. And if you can make a donation to an occupational health association that fights for everyone’s rights, please do! That’s a fitting way to give  tribute to the thousands of people dying at work every year in this country.

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One Response to “Worker Safety Railroaded”

  1. The Funeral Train Grows Longer « Erstwhile Luddite Says:

    […] written about this all before here, here, and here. I’ve resisted writing about it through the summer because without the resources for […]

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