Lethal Workplaces: Deaths on the Job Continue

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH) announced “The Dirty Dozen” employers of 2024 recently. Who are the Dirty Dozen? They are members of an employer class, a tiny minority of the population, which put the vast majority of workers and communities at-risk due to unsafe practices, leading to preventable illnesses, injuries and fatalities.

That is not all. Several of the Dirty Dozen also harass and retaliate workers who demand in deeds and words more safety on the job.

Jessica E. Martinez, MPH, is co-executive director of National COSH. “This is an exciting and challenging time for US workers,” she said in a statement. “It’s exciting to see a renewed interest in joining labor unions, participating in workers’ centers and connecting with advocacy campaigns. The challenge facing workers who are fighting for something better is that conditions in US workplaces are getting worse.

“The latest data show an increase in workplace fatalities, injuries and illnesses,” according to her. “An increasing number of children are being assigned to dangerous jobs, and the reality of climate change is bringing the risk of extreme heat to both indoor and outdoor workplaces.”

Consider this. Regular shade and water breaks for agricultural workers who harvest the food we eat is a labor standard that some employers neglect. The impacts of such maltreatment can and do result in death and illness among workers.

National COSH releases the “Dirty Dozen” each year to spotlight the real conditions in US workplaces. That is a direct way to back workers coming together to improve their lives and those of other working families.

The Dirty Dozen report comes out in observance of Workers’ Memorial Week, which took place this year from April 21 through April 28. This global event recalls workers who lost their lives on the job and their families and recognizes those suffering from occupational injuries and illnesses.

Worker victims of death on the job are born in and out of the US. For example, when a container ship, the Dali, hit Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge, the collision killed immigrant workers who were repairing the roads upon which businesses and households depend.

Local COSH groups, worker centers, unions, and worker leaders and advocates from across the country nominate employers for the Dirty Dozen list. Criteria range from the severity of safety risks to workers, to repeat and serious employer violations of safety standards and applicable laws.

The Dirty Dozen employers for 2024, are, listed alphabetically: Alabama Department of Corrections; Ascension; Black Iron/XL Concrete; Costa Farms; Florence Hardwoods, Mar-Jac Poultry and Onin Staffing; Space X and the Boring Company; Tyson Foods; Valor Security and Investigations; Uber and Lyft; Waffle House and Walmart, Inc.

For more information, please visit coshnetwork.org. Follow National Council for Occupational Safety and Health on Facebook, @NationalCOSH on Twitter and @NationalCOSH on Instagram.

Seth Sandronsky is a Sacramento journalist and member of the freelancers unit of the Pacific Media Workers Guild. Email sethsandronsky@gmail.com