A Dangerous Business Revisited: A Reaction to the Documentary
A Dangerous Business Revisited: A Reaction to the Documentary
- The documentary, A Dangerous Business Revisited, highlights the risks and concerns associated with working in the McWane Company. The company has been under scrutiny for the alleged lack of concern of their workers safety and disregard for environmental issues. It has also been named one of the most dangerous workplaces in America for little to no concern of the workers’ safety and well-being. The company has allegedly violated more safety laws than all its competitors combined. Many workers have sustained serious injuries and some have died from work related accidents and mishaps. According to the documentary, the company has increased its production at the expense of the workers safety.
The workers are sometimes denied their breaks, which is a violation of their rights. Some workers claimed to have worked and average of 16 hours daily because their supervisors would not allow them to leave at the time they were supposed to. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), stipulates that machinery in production industries should always be operated by a guard on duty and that they should be repaired regularly to avoid accidents that could otherwise be prevented. This was not upheld at McWane. Current OSHA laws and penalties are not adequate in addressing the issue of workers’ safety since they do not deal with repeated and serious violations. According to the stipulations in OSHA, “a serious violation, something that could lead to someone’s death, carries a maximum penalty of $7000 (Docherty et al, “A Dangerous Business”). OSHA pursues an inadequate approach to the repeated offences of the McWane Company. It issues small penalties for large offences, that is, the McWane Company is only fined instead of facing a conviction by the courts for the deaths and acquired disability of many of its former employees.
- McWane was later convicted of misdemeanor after the death of an employee and was fined $250,000. This was followed by countless felony charges, making the company a repeated offender. The punishments doled out in the McWane factory were very mild and should have been more severe as the families of the employees that lost their lives in the line of duty can never be fully compensated for the deaths of their loved ones. Workers compensations are not adequate to compensate workers who were disabled by the machines in McWane factory. These are instead some form of immunity for the company. In other instances, the company would fight off fines and OSHA would reduce them even though the crime in question was a death offence. OSHA never took into account the implications of these accidents on the lives of those who were affected both directly and indirectly.
Many blame the lenient punishment on inadequate laws and regulations by the health administration. The laws may be lenient but very few have attempted to amend those laws in order to safeguard the welfare of the company’s employees. According to the video, the laws have only been amended once since the establishment of OSHA (Docherty et al, “A Dangerous Business”). The punishments were so lenient that the company opted to pay the fines rather than make changes to their company and comply with the regulations regarding workers safety. OSHA failed to perform its work effectively as the accidents continued even after the fines and the charges were filed against the McWane Company. In other words, penalties issued by OSHA have failed to enhance safety at the workplace. Employers who do not take their workers’ safety seriously should pay a much higher penalty for their negligence.
- In the asbestos industry, various policies are put in place to protect the workers from work related risks. Asbestos products such as corrugated cement sheets and ceiling coatings can be dangerous and therefore asbestos companies ensure that their workers are protected and that the spread of asbestos debris is minimized to reduce bad publicity and contamination of the environment. Asbestos companies also ensure that waste from these companies is disposed off appropriately in accordance with the Environment Agency. Unlike the Asbestos industry, the workers’ safety is not in McWane Company’s priority list. The company dismissed many of its workers and still expected the same and an even greater level of efficiency from the remaining workers. The McWane Company as a result overworked the few remaining workers and most of them were at risk of work-related accidents since most of the machinery was unmanned. The asbestos industry trains its workers in handling the company’s equipment but McWane did not put much consideration into training its workers to make them aware of the impending risks of mishandling the machines. This intentional violation of workers safety standards is what resulted in the numerous deaths and accidents in the company.
- McWane claims to have made a few changes regarding the safety of its workers while at work. The company claims to have put in place several policies that ensure that the workers are safeguarded from any work related accidents and mishaps. The company has indeed made some changes that have improved the state of the health of the workers. The company now ensures that the conveyor belts are secured and that there are guardrails near and around any of the heavy machinery. Air in the McWane plants is also cleaner, evidence that they have made significant contributions to the preservation of the environment. The company has also adopted the policy of shutting down any machinery while it is undergoing repairs. These measures have contributed greatly to the safety and well-being of the workers. Many people who advocated for change in the company did not maintain their positions in office. Some of them lost everything because of what the company considered their lack of the loyalty to the company. These workers did not deserve to lose their jobs because of opposing the company’s previous work policy.
- Two theories can be used to explain the long history of McWane Company on worker safety and environmental violations. First, the company believed that it was more expensive to comply with the safety rules and regulations than pay the fines and face charges against them regarding workers accidents and deaths while on duty. This was not the case because in the end, the company had to pay a higher price of having to do cumulative repairs, face delayed felonies and charges and have to install expensive equipment to clean the air and safeguard the workers. Secondly, the company believed that the laws were lenient and that they could get away with breaking the law. Although the stipulations in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration were not stringent enough, the criminal justice system was backed up by constitutional laws and environmental acts that made the company clean up their act. As a result, the company has taken a drastic step towards preserving the environment and ensuring safe working conditions for its workers.
Docherty, Neil, David Rummel, Lowell Bergman, Linden MacIntyre, and David Barstow. A Dangerous Business. Boston: WGBH Educational Foundation, 2003. Film.
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