Thursday, February 02, 2012

Expose the fact of death at work and act to prevent it!

When media personality Molly Meldrum fell from a height at home and was hospitalised with head injuries radio, press and TV covered the story like ants on a chop bone.

Some publicity was to be expected, but this was saturation coverage. The impact of his fall on Meldrum was one thing, but we had to “share” its impact on fans, friends and family, as well as reviewing his status, interests and lifestyle.

Molly’s injuries were severe and unfortunate, but he has lived to tell the tale, unlike another pre-Christmas accident victim, a member of the CFMEU employed by Alinta Energy at the Leigh Creek coalfields.

This death at work was virtually ignored by the media.

It’s not that there wasn’t a story: this comrade had a family, including children, and friends, and their grief was all the more poignant for his death having occurred the day before Christmas.

But the capitalist press gets no mileage for the class it serves by publicising death and injury at work. Rather than appearing as stories in the press, these incidents are “disappeared”. At most there is a passing reference to an “industrial accident that claimed a man’s life”, but no exploring the circumstances, no use of the power of the press to tell the human story involved so as to pressure the capitalist class and its managers to clean up their act and stop killing workers.

The Leigh Creek man was operating a 30-year old hydraulic excavator. The machine operates 24 hours a day, so compared to a machine operating on an eight-hour shift, its effective working age was around 100 years.

Safework SA has yet to deliver a report on the state of the machine, but it would be a safe bet to say that they had not inspected it, or had not done so recently.

That was the case with the metal borer that caught and killed young Daniel Madeley in 2004. It had never been inspected. Even as late as 2010, and despite having discovered that there were 78 workplaces which operated borers in SA, the SafeWork SA inspectors had only managed to visit seven.

At Leigh Creek, a turbine on the excavator overheated and burst, spilling hot oil onto the operator who was then immolated. Suffering severe burns, he was airlifted to Adelaide, but died in hospital.

Five days before, a 58 year old man was killed at a stockfeed manufacturing business at Kapunda when he was hit by a large shuttle used to transport hay bales across the site.

The press treated this tragedy in the same way – with indifference.

The working class is not expendable. The life of each working person is precious.

The requirement for safety at work is a set of understood safe operating procedures that take priority over production for profit.

And the foundation of safe operating procedures around machinery is regular and thorough maintenance and repair despite what this may mean in terms of capital costs and interruptions to production.

No more deaths at work!

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