Given all the initial press surrounding Boston, MA and West, TX, labor advocates are attempting to put the spotlight on an important issue – workplace safety. Various groups pushing for safety at the workplace or in factories claim that hazardous conditions are mostly ignored by the media and general public. However in 2011, workplace accidents killed 4,609 Americans, while only 17 Americans died from terrorist attacks.
There were many theories surrounding the explosion, but once they were ruled out, media coverage died down and the primary focus remained on the Boston Marathon.The West, Texas explosion was determined to be an industrial accident which killed 14 people and injured 200.
So why did that make this horrible incident far less important than the Boston Marathon to the media? Primarily because the Boston bombings comprised the first major attack on our country since September 11, 2001. Additionally, Grant Duwe, author of “Mass Murder in the United States: A History,” said last week that “History has shown that the public is generally more interested in crime which is unusual and dramatic and something that is violent and occurs infrequently.”
But the fact remains that what happened in West was tragic in terms of lives lost and injuries. There were tons of potentially explosive chemicals at the fertilizer plant. However, regulators paid no attention to the possibility of danger. Further, the company’s emergency response plan which was filed with the Environment Protection Agency in 2011, reported that there was no risk of fire or explosion at the plant – a ludicrous claim. And the last time the Occupational Safety and Health Administration visited this plant was in 1985. This agency has been grossly understaffed and underfunded for quite sometime.
Will workplace safety ever become a priority in this country? Only time will tell. But undoubtedly, more resources and manpower must be devoted to this important issue.