February 6, 2008 The Pump Handle 0Comment

In 2003, FRONTLINE, The New York Times, and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation teamed up to investigate nine deaths and thousands of injuries at facilities owned by McWane, Inc., a major iron pipe foundry company – and “a portrait emerged of McWane as the most dangerous company in an inherently dangerous business.”

The resulting program caught the attention of the Environmental Crimes section of the Department of Justice, which guided a nationwide investigation that led to prosecutions. McWane and eight of its executives and managers were convicted of 125 environmental, health, and safety crimes, including violations of the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act, as well as lying to government officials and conspiracy.

Last night, FRONTLINE aired a follow-up documentary (watch it online here) that finds “the McWane way” to have changed dramatically. The transformation is probably due more to the stiffer environmental penalties the company faced than to penalties for OSHA violations, though – a sign that we still have a long way to go before OSHA penalties fit the crime.

In other news:

Charleston Gazette (editorial): Super Bowl viewers watching the halftime show sponsored by tire giant Bridgestone should think of the workers behind the tires – like child laborers in Liberian rubber plantations.

Washington Post: Occupational nurses and a clinic translator spotted a pattern of pork-plant workers with mysterious neurological complaints. Now, the CDC is seeking other cases in large-scale pig slaughterhosues (also see the New York Times).

Reuters: Newly released Army statistics show that a record number of U.S. soldiers – as  many as 121 – committed suicide in 2007. Officials cite relationship problems, increasingly due to repeated long deployments, as the main cause.

Service Employees International Union: SEIU, the largest union of healthcare workers in North America, is launching a $75 million push to make healthcare a central issue in the election, with the goal of achieving quality, affordable healthcare for all.

News & Observer (North Carolina): Despite thousands of new jobs being added to payroll, workplace fatalities in North Carolina dropped 29% last year; state training programs and an increase in job site inspections get the credit.

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