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"humorous And Horrible"

No surprise here--under the Bush administration, OSHA hasn't bothered with health and safety regulations. They've just let companies police themselves. The New York Times has the gory details. But I've always wondered how officials justify this approach in public. Here's OSHA chief Edwin G. Foulke, Jr., to explain:

Early in his tenure at OSHA, Mr. Foulke delivered a speech called "Adults Do the Darndest Things," which attributed many injuries to worker carelessness. Large posters of workers' making dangerous errors, like erecting a tall ladder close to an overhead wire, were displayed around him.

"Kids don't always know what their parents do all day at work, but they instinctively understand the importance of them working safely," he told the audience, which included children who had won a safety-poster contest. "In contrast, adults could stand to learn a thing or two. Looking at the posters, I was reminded of a couple examples of safety and health bloopers that are both humorous and horrible."

So the real problem isn't the lack of safety standards. It's that workers are doing lots of hilariously dumb things. Like, apparently, this guy:

Seven years ago, a Missouri doctor discovered a troubling pattern at a microwave popcorn plant in the town of Jasper. After an additive was modified to produce a more buttery taste, nine workers came down with a rare, life-threatening disease that was ravaging their lungs. ...

Soon after Eric Peoples began working at the Jasper popcorn plant in 1997, he was thrilled to get a promotion: from the assembly line, which paid $6 to $7 an hour, to the mixing room, where he got more than $11 an hour to prepare ingredients.

Ten months later, Mr. Peoples recalled in a recent interview, he came down with a fever and chills. ... After days of testing, doctors diagnosed bronchiolitis obliterans. "My lung capacity had dropped to 18 percent," Mr. Peoples said. He was told that there was no cure for the often-fatal disease and that he would likely need a double lung transplant to survive.

Right, that should totally go on the blooper reel...

--Bradford Plumer