April 02, 2005

The true meaning of the finger.

A customer's finding of a finger in her bowl of chili at a Wendy's restaurant in California was one of the few US news stories that rose above the clamor around Terri Schiavo's approaching death and Michael Jackson's trial. And, as it typical of the US press, pretty much all of the coverage focused on one of the most superficial aspects of the story: the question of whose finger it was and how it got into the chili.

What the press should have been talking about, says Jordan Barab, is what the finger in the chili says about the working conditions of US workers, and about the enforcement of health and safety laws:

Unless this is some sick person’s idea of a practical joke, it’s hard to imagine any scenario in which the fingertip does not belong to a worker. OSHA’s recordkeeping rule is supposed to ensure that if someone is injured on the job and requires more than first aid, the employer will record information about the injury on the OSHA 300 Log. But in this case, investigators have been looking high-and-low for the owner of the displaced finger, with no success. They have been asking employers about entries on their OSHA 300 Logs, including inquiries to all the Wendy’s restaurants in the area, the suppliers of beans, meat, and other Chili fixin' ingredients, but they can’t find any company that will admit to a recent finger-losing incident.

This true tale says many things about the state of workers’ safety and health in the US, including that our injury and illness recording system is a JOKE. A serious injury occurred at a workplace---a finger was severed and became part of some unsuspecting person’s lunch---but it apparently isn’t recorded on any company’s log. The fact that these injuries occur thousands of times each day in the US is bad enough, but that we have no reliable system for recording them, and apparently less and less interest in enforcing the system we have, is a disgrace. Somewhere in Louisville, OSHA's former Asst Secretary John Henshaw’s mouth may still be on autopilot bragging about the "triple bottom line" of reducing injuries, illnesses, and fatalities. Given that we have no system at all for tracking occupational illnesses, and that the fine for concealing an employee’s injury is currently running at about 0.1% of the fine for uttering a "dirty word" on the radio, shouldn’t that be "triple bottom LIE?"

Via Confined Space.

Posted by Magpie at April 2, 2005 05:00 PM | Labor | Technorati links |

I was so on top of this story. In the good way. Check out what I said way back on the 26th.

"If it was not from the “restaurant”, all I can think of is that it must be from one of the suppliers. I would not be surprised if employees working for these suppliers did not report it, or a report such as this would be lost, especially if the finger came in the ground beef container. The employees in slaughterhouses are often treated worse than the animals.

"Meat processing facilities are also known to pose significant threats to worker safety. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, meat processing is the most dangerous job in the nation; in fact, the rate of injury and illness among slaughterhouse workers is approximately three times higher than the injury rate in the average U.S. factory. Every year, 29 out of every 100 meat processing workers sustains a work-related injury or illness that requires treatment beyond first aid. Given the pressure placed on slaughterhouse supervisors to report low injury-rates and the numerous past scandals involving injury-log falsification at slaughterhouses, it is likely that many additional injuries are never recorded"
- Eric Carlson

Are you impressed? Yeah!

-eric: Revolutionary

Posted by: eric at April 2, 2005 09:28 PM

good work!

but i sure wish you'd get rid of that white-on-black at your blog. it's really hard to read ...

Posted by: magpie at April 2, 2005 09:58 PM

I dont know, I really dont like the black on white, It is like staring at a light bulb. Maybe some other color for text would make it easier? I dont know.

Posted by: eric at April 2, 2005 10:34 PM