Not an “accident”: Richard Johnson, 31, suffers fatal work-related injury in Phoenix, AZ

By | 2018-01-22T20:32:41+00:00 January 16th, 2015|2 Comments

Richard Johnson, 31 suffered fatal traumatic injuries on Monday, January 12, 2015 while working at Southwest Fabrication’s facility in Phoenix, AZ

ABC15 reports:

  • It was the worker’s last shift at the company (he was moving on to a new job.)[His aunt alerted me that this report is incorrect.]
  • “His clothes got entangled in a metal fabrication machine.”
  • A former employee indicated he was involved in a serious incident at the plant in September 2014. ‘No one ever talked to me about safety or how to use the equipment.  … ‘My shirt got caught around the spinning bar. I was pulled into the machine. Eventually, my shirt ripped off and I got free.’”

KSAZ notes:

  • The incident occurred around 8:30 am.
  • The company, which has 50 employees, was cited in 2005 by Arizona OSHA for two safety violations.

Each year, about 100 workers in Arizona are fatally injured on-the-job. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 90 work-related fatal injuries in Arizona during 2013 (preliminary data, most recent available.) Nationwide, at least 4,405 workers suffered fatal traumatic injuries in 2013.

The AFL-CIO’s annual Death on the Job report notes:

  • Arizona OSHA has 30 inspectors to cover more than 130,000 workplaces.
  • The average penalty for a serious violation in Arizona is $891.

Arizona OSHA has until the end of mid-July 2015 to issue any citations and penalties related to the incident that stole Richard Johnson’s life. It’s likely they’ll determine that Johnson’s death was preventable. It was no “accident.”

About the Author:

Celeste Monforton, DrPH, MPH
Celeste Monforton is a fellow in the Collegium Ramazzini; a lecturer at Texas State University; and professorial lecturer at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University. She receives funding from the Public Welfare Foundation.


  1. Selina Schuh January 19, 2015 at 1:30 pm - Reply

    I am the aunt of Richard Johnson, as well as on the Journalism faculty at the local community college. I’m outraged by both the lack of journalistic standards and absence of sensitivity towards my family, with which this blog was written. This type of reporting is what gives media a bad reputation.

    First of all the author did not double check the information that the news outlets published. Richard was not leaving the job, nor moving to Las Vegas. Yet the author reprinted the misinformation.

    OSHA is in the middle of the investigation. Maybe the accident could have been preventable, but we will not know this until the reports are final. When reporting, facts are essential. To title your piece with an assumption is negligent and gratuitous and harmful to the family. They are left with the assumption that you know something they don’t, which is incorrect.

    What kind of contribution are you hoping to make with this type of reporting? This certainly doesn’t help Richard, his mother or brother, or any workers who may be at risk due to an unsafe workplace. Unsubstantiated arguments will not help their defense.

  2. Celeste Monforton, DrPH, MPH
    Celeste Monforton, DrPH, MPH January 19, 2015 at 2:54 pm - Reply

    Dear Ms. Schuh,
    I’m sorry that you took offense with my blog post about Mr. Richard Johnson. My blog post is not meant to disrespect the memory of your nephew or to harm his family. My purpose in writing the blog posts “not an accident” is to bring attention to the incorrect characterization—by newspaper reporters and the general public—that work-related fatalities are “accidents.”

    In my experience researching and investigating work-related fatalities, they are rarely “accidents” but rather a failure to implement fundamental safety precautions. Unfairly, workers are frequently blamed for their own injuries, especially when they are dead and not able to speak for themselves. When I follow-up on my “not an accident” posts, I do indeed find that OSHA cites these employers for violations of safety standards.

    I am not a journalist and refer readers to the local reporting. I am someone who knows many families who have lost loved ones because of unsafe conditions at work. When I write these posts I hear from them that they appreciate that I bring attention to their loved one’s death. I’m sorry to hear that you do not feel the same way.

    P.S. If you or your family would like to connect with other families that have experienced the loss of a loved one from a work-related fatal injury, the organization United Support and Memorial for Workplace Fatalities may be of interest.

    In sympathy,

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