Nick Revetta was killed in an explosion after a gas leak. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigated, but issued no citation and paid no fine.
Communication tower climbing, which only employs ten thousand people at any time, has resulted in 100 deaths over the last nine years, a death rate ten times higher than construction. Not a single tower climber fatality is listed under the major cell phone companies’ entries in OSHA’s database of workplace accident investigations.
This is not okay.
Workers have the right to a safe and healthy workplace; they should not die because of their job. But for far too many people– mostly men, nearly all blue-collar– work results in death.
The culprits are exactly what one would expect. For instance, the communication tower climbers often receive crap equipment and little training; to satisfy unrealistic work quotas, they work overnight and in dangerous conditions. Because they work for contractors and not directly for the phone companies, the phone companies experience no negative consequences whatsoever from the deaths of the communication tower climbers– even though they directly cause them. OSHA is perpetually understaffed and under pressure to complete dozens of inspections, even at the risk of leaving workers in unsafe conditions and not penalizing people for the work they do.
Some of the reason behind this is that our culture doesn’t care about poor people as much as it cares about corporate profits. Who cares if people die? We have our 3G networks and our steel! That’s the important bit, right? It might cut down on the sacred profit if we make sure to protect the safety of manual workers! And if we funded OSHA enough, then we might not be able to fund tax breaks for rich people and drones to go kill brown men in other countries. Those are so much more important. And, besides, who really cares about manual laborers anyway? It’s not like they’re people. It’s not like they matter the way rich people do.
And let’s be honest here. OSHA is not, mostly, protecting white-collar workers. They’re not inspecting workplaces to make sure your chair is ergonomic and your computer doesn’t have too much glare, you know? They’re protecting factory workers and construction workers and communication tower climbers. If we underfund OSHA, we’re saying “fuck you, poor people, you should have had the foresight to be born to rich parents who could afford college!”
Men are disproportionately likely to die on the job. Some of it is that for a variety of reasons (men tend to have more physical strength than women, men are more likely to be hired as manual laborers, heavily-male environments are unwelcoming to women) manual labor is gendered very, very male, and manual labor is the sector most at risk for deaths on the job. Some of the reason is located in toxic ideas of masculinity. Men take risks. Men don’t care about their safety or health. Men will work dangerous jobs to take care of their family. Men aren’t “pussies.” And these corporations take advantage of these toxic ideas to cut costs and work faster and not have to take proper safety precautions.
Let me be clear here: this isn’t about anything those men are doing wrong. We need to fix the blame on the correct people: the corporations. They’re at best condoning and at worst actively coercing people into risk-taking and unsafe behavior that will, very often, result in them dying. This is fucking intersectionality for you. Combine fucked ideas of masculinity and fucked ideas of class, all for the benefit of the tiny percentage of people at the top.
Short version: when people talk about “intrusive regulations stifling businesses,” you should interpret that as “I really don’t care if poor men die as long as my stock holdings pay off.” That is what it means.