Interrupted Lives, Uninterrupted Profits

April 3rd, 2004

To the Editor,

This article is the perfect example of how this country’s Worker’s Compensation system is causing more disability and death than it can ever alleviate. Since employers are, for the most part, immune from liability for injuries to workers, they incur no losses by failing to alter unsafe working conditions. The state acts as their attorney and the injured worker is forced to hire his own counsel, who is paid out of any “award” granted to the worker.

Awards are rarely given without years of delay while workers suffer incredible hardships in the absence of a paycheck and access to most medical providers. If they prevail through extraordinary perseverance, they will “win” the right to earn 2/3 of the wages they formerly enjoyed while acquiring an often painful disability and/or shortened life span. It costs society a fortune – yet agencies isolating dangers in the workplace like NIOSH are powerless to regulate an end to negligence.

How would this story read if employers could be sued for allowing workers continued exposure to known toxins? Ms. Shipley might have written this:

Jan., 2001 – NIOSH advised industry today that certain flavoring chemicals, notably, diacetyl, act upon the respiratory system much like an acid. Thus far, all popcorn and flavoring manufacturers have ceased production of foods utilizing these chemicals and have substituted natural flavors for the culprits which have taken the health and lives of numerous workers to date. “It may raise the price of the evf snack foods somewhat,” an industry leader projected, “but swapping lives for profits earned by using cheap chemicals which are dangerously toxic if inhaled and unknown effects when ingested, is simply a risk our society does not need to take.”

I can dream, can’t I?

Barbara Rubin

Categories: St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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