Workplace safety is of the utmost importance. Understanding events and conditions that may ultimately result in an accidental workplace death or injury is key in maintaining this safety. To prevent or prepare for the occurrence of an accident, precautions must be made for all parties involved. Ensuring that all safeguards are in place, should result in a low likelihood of an accident occurring. However, in instances where overall safety is neglected, dangerous conditions and accidents are far more likely, and typically have disastrous outcomes.
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One such instance of gross neglect of worker well-being is evident in the 1931 disaster in Gauley Bridge, WV stemming from the construction of the Hawks Nest Tunnel. The task at hand was to construct a dam and tunnel system as to divert and carry water of the New River to boost the ability of power generation. In the midst of construction, workers stumbled upon silica in the area. After this discovery, laborers were asked to mine and collect the silica for future use in steel workings. Silica, in such conditions, was in dust form and easily inhalable. No masks, respirators, or equipment of these sorts was provided to the workers resulting in silicosis, but were worn by supervisors in times of inspection. This proved to be definitively deadly to over 475 workers, but hundreds or thousands of other deaths were likely a direct result of the incident. Simple measures could have been taken to lessen or eliminate the deaths that resulted from the neglectful ways of the companies involved. Providing masks or respirators to the men working to extract the silica would have greatly reduced the amount of dust inhaled by the individuals. Today, regulations by OSHA and other organizations protects workers in situations such as these requiring proper equipment be dispersed and used .
The 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy is an example of heightened disastrous aftermaths resulting from a lack of precautionary measures and poor emergency protocols surrounding the events. Though there are differing theories on how the leak happened, workers insist that the poor working facilities, little regard for safety, and undertrained employees ultimately led to poor operations of the tanks resulting in the leak. Immediately after the accident, there seemed to be little to no urgency in notifying residents and other workers of the possible consequences, inducing a greater risk to the overall well-being of everyone within or near the incident. Thousands of lives were lost as a result of the leak. In any case, several tactics could have been implemented as to reduce the possibility of a leak occurring. Better maintenance of the equipment and facility, an improved sense of worker safety, and proper training of all workers could have all made a significant difference in the outcome of this disaster. Since this time, regulations have been put into place and organizations and activist groups are working to help those that were involved, including the passing of The Environmental Protection Act in 1986 .
A number of incidents such as these are very preventable. With sufficient precautions and procedures in place, careless accidents and wrongful deaths and injuries would be greatly downsized. In general, if people, especially companies and supervisors, cared as much for the well-being of individuals in the workplace as much as they cared for a “successful” job, occurrences or neglect may be eliminated and the task could still be executed properly. In time, regulations and organizations such as OSHA have worked to stabilize the workplace, but it is evident that more work still needs to be done.
Phillips disaster of 1989: During routine maintenance of polyethylene reactors, extremely flammable gases escaped through an open valve. When checking the reactors, valves are closed and compressed hoses disconnected. The hoses look identical and had been reversed and wrongly installed after the last inspection. Now when “closing” the valve, it was being opened and released the gas killing over 20 people. OSHA investigated, citing multiple violations including inadequate standard operating procedures. A settlement was reached, but since this disaster, two other fatal instances have occurred.
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Kader Toy Factory fire: A 1993 fire in the factory (building 1) killed 188 and injured more than 500. A small fire broke out on the first floor, but workers on upper floors were instructed to continue work. The fire alarm did not sound and the exit doors were locked. The structural integrity and design of the building was also poor and causing a quick collapse. This led to the government addressing the major flaws in fire safety measures.
 Gauley Bridge. http://cstl-hcb.semo.edu/pgershuny/Gauley%20Bridge.htm
 Broughton, E. (2005). The Bhopal disaster and its aftermath: a review. Environmental Health, 4, 6. http://doi.org/10.1186/1476-069X-4-6
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