February 23, 2007 The Pump Handle 1Comment

Christopher Thomas needed to make some extra money. The 51-year old welder—also a husband and father of two—had begun work in the GMD Shipyard in Brooklyn Navy Yard about a week before. It was mid-morning on a Saturday—his day off—but Thomas had come into work anyway.

He and some colleagues were using a pulley to move a massive steel plate weighing more than 6,000 pounds when the plate came loose and plummeted, hitting Thomas in the head before pinning him beneath. He died not long after.

The president of GMD Shipyard released a statement saying he was “saddened” by the accident and that his company would be involved in efforts to determine the cause of the accident.

Somehow, “saddened” doesn’t quite cut it.

I’m sad, but I think the better word is “outraged.” Here was a man trying to make some extra money—a man willing to give up his day off to earn it— and he lost everything. I’m sorry if I don’t feel better knowing the company is “saddened” and made a promise to investigate.

Why? Because I’ve heard this before. “Sorry about that, but we’ll investigate,” says the company, who has undoubtedly hired someone new to replace Christopher Thomas. No worries for them. So what if they get a slap on the wrist by OSHA? It’s just another day, another dollar.

It’s time for a new story. A story where hard-working people can count on their employers to investigate before tragedy strikes.


AP State & Local Wire. NYC ironworker dies after being struck by heavy metal plate. January 7, 2007.

Keller E, Moore RF. 3-ton plate kills worker. Daily News (New York). January 7, 2007: p. 6.

Lowe H. Ironworker crushed by metal plate. Newsday (New York). January 7, 2007: p. A19.


One thought on “Giving up more than a day off

  1. Here’s another one, Christina… An article yesterday in the Kansas city Star reported on yet another worker killed in a trench collapse. Instead of reporting on how this could and should have been prevented, the report focuses on the “personal interest”angle and completely misses the important lesson that should be communicated to the public. One person at the site was quoted as saying “When something like this happens, it makes you appreciate what you’ve got…It’s just a really bad day.” And to make it worse, the OSHA inspector said it would take two to six months to do the investigation of what appears to be about as straightforward a situation as you could ever imagine.

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