Last April, construction worker Mark Carter was killed on a highway construction worksite in Pensacola when a dump truck backed over him. OSHA did not cite Skanska, the construction company that Carter worked for, and last week, the Pensacola Police Department (PPD) issued a report concluding that Carter was “at fault” for his own death.
I wrote a post strongly disagreeing with the conclusion that Carter was at fault and pointing out there there are plenty of technologies available that can prevent these all-too-common construction site fatalities.
I then sent that post to Olivia Iverson, the reporter for WEAR News in Pensacola, who had reported on the original incident and the recent PPD report. To her credit, Iverson picked up on my arguments and ran a follow-up story last night that interviewed me and discussed technologies that are available (and being used by other companies) as well as the lack of OSHA or Department of Transportation standards that would require companies to use that life-saving equipment. Iverson asked the construction company, Skansa, if it had any plans to install devices that could have prevented Carter’s death. The company did not respond.
There are several lessons to be learned from these events.
- Do Research: When you hear that workers are at fault for an incident (because they are careless, inattentive or made a mistake), do a little research. You will almost always find that there are more significant root causes that were at play. . Firing or disciplining them may be a good public relations move, but it doesn’t solve the problem. And generally, unless the root causes are addressed, the same problem will occur again.
- Contact the Reporter: When you see a news report about a workplace safety incident that doesn’t seem right, contact the reporter. If you can make a good case, provide evidence and/or connect them with an expert or two, reporters are often happy to follow up on the story, and as good reporters like Iverson, even do their own additional research.I find nothing more frustrating than a news story about a health and safety tragedy that takes management’s word for what happened, or only tells half the story. But most reporters don’t know anything about OSHA, or anything about incident investigations. It’s your job — all of you knowledgeable health and safety activists out there — to educate them.
So if you see an article about a worker fatality or a health and safety problem that is wrong or incomplete, contact the reporter. (Their email will often be on the website, or almost all journalists have Twitter accounts — often with their email addresses. Or you can DM them on Twitter (if you don’t know how to do that, ask your kids.)You’ll be happy you did. And they probably will be as well.