More of the Same

By the time you read this, it will be well into 2012, but considering the events leading up to the holidays and events so far in the New Year, it doesn’t look like much has changed. The powers that be continue to say one thing and then do another, while at the same time, holding workers to higher standards of accountability than themselves.

In one situation in particular, one of our members had their hand caught in a piece of equipment. What was the first question that person asked? You guessed it, it was, “should I report this injury or not”? It is a sad state of affairs when a worker has to weigh their health and well being against the possibility of losing their job. In the end it was reported and the equipment was fitted with proper guards. During the time after the injury, it was discovered that similar incidents had occurred on this exact piece of equipment, but nothing was done to prevent further incidents—until someone was hurt.

Who should have been held accountable for not addressing this ongoing hazard, the supervisor? I would have thought so, but nothing happened. Who was responsible for conducting the investigations and determining the proper corrective actions regarding the previous incidents? The only person worried about being held accountable was the injured worker who was concerned about the repercussions of reporting an injury. That would be shameful, if our employer had any shame.

I recently learned of a worker who was injured at CAT and was required by management to go back to their job after returning from treatment despite being mentally and physically impaired as a result of their injuries. What is going on? What if that person were injured again as a result of being forced to work when impaired? Who would have been held accountable?

Hypothetically, if management knew someone reported to work obviously under the influence of drugs or alcohol, I would expect that they would not be allowed to do their job, right? For the sake of argument, say the person was allowed to stay on the job. Would the manager who made that decision be held accountable for allowing an impaired individual to continue to work? What is the difference between this and the situation in the previous paragraph?

If you feel that there is a situation that puts you at risk of being injured or made ill, ask for your union Health and Safety representative. You have a contractual right to representation. If your rep is not provided, ask for a steward and file a grievance about not getting a Safety rep. Caterpillar has the legal obligation under federal law to provide you a workplace free of recognized hazards and you have the duty to yourself, your family and your co-workers to insist that your workplace be made safe.

On another subject, just prior to the holidays, an electrician working in East Peoria Building BB was burned in an arc flash event while performing construction work. At the end of the day, the old Industrial Workers of the World saying comes to mind, “An injury to one is an injury to all”. Please keep his continuing recovery and family in your thoughts and prayers.

I wish all of you a healthy, safe and happy new year.

Steve Mitchell