Worker safety

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Jan 8 09:03:00 MST 2003


(first of what appears to be an extraordinary 3 part series in the NY Times 
intended to supplement a PBS TV documentary on the same topic that airs 
tomorrow.)

NY Times, Jan. 9, 2002

DANGEROUS BUSINESS
At a Texas Foundry, an Indifference to Life
By DAVID BARSTOW and LOWELL BERGMAN

Additional reporting by James Sandler and Robin Stein.

TYLER, Tex. — It is said that only the desperate seek work at Tyler Pipe, a 
sprawling, rusting pipe foundry out on Route 69, just past the flea market. 
Behind a high metal fence lies a workplace that is part Dickens and part 
Darwin, a dim, dirty, hellishly hot place where men are regularly 
disfigured by amputations and burns, where turnover is so high that 
convicts are recruited from local prisons, where some workers urinate in 
their pants because their bosses refuse to let them step away from the 
manufacturing line for even a few moments.

Rolan Hoskin was from the ranks of the desperate. His life was a tailspin 
of unemployment, debt and divorce. A master electrician, 48 years old, he 
had retreated to a low-rent apartment on the outskirts of town and taken an 
entry-level maintenance job on the graveyard shift at Tyler Pipe.

He would come home covered in fine black soot, utterly drained and dreading 
the next shift. "I don't know if I'm going to last another week," his twin 
brother recalls him saying. The job scared him; he didn't know what he was 
doing. But the pay was decent, almost $10 an hour, and his electricity was 
close to being cut off. "He was just trying to make it," his daughter said.

On June 29, 2000, in his second month on the job, Mr. Hoskin descended into 
a deep pit under a huge molding machine and set to work on an aging, balky 
conveyor belt that carried sand. Federal rules require safety guards on 
conveyor belts to prevent workers from getting caught and crushed. They 
also require belts to be shut down when maintenance is done on them.

But this belt was not shut down, federal records show. Nor was it protected 
by metal safety guards. That very night, Mr. Hoskin had been trained to 
adjust the belt while it was still running. Less downtime that way, the men 
said. Now it was about 4 a.m., and Mr. Hoskin was alone in the cramped, 
dark pit. The din was deafening, the footing treacherous under heavy drifts 
of black sand.

He was found on his knees. His left arm had been crushed first, the skin 
torn off. His head had been pulled between belt and rollers. His skull had 
split. "If he fought that machine I know his last thought was me," said his 
daughter, April Hoskin-Silva, her dark eyes rimmed with tears.

full: http://www.nytimes.com/2003/01/08/national/08PIPE.html

Louis Proyect, Marxism mailing list: http://www.marxmail.org


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