Have We Failed To Keep Our Public Employees Safe In Alabama?
Last Fall, I wrote about two deadly trench collapses in the Huntsville area. One trench collapse involved a private construction company in Madison. The other involved a City of Huntsville project and public employees. Year-after-year, trench collapses are one of the most frequent causes of construction site wrongful deaths.
Were these two deadly construction accidents treated differently? Yes. After an investigation, OSHA fined the private contractor in Madison for its fatal accident. The City’s public project? That’s a different story. The City was not cited for the dangerous worksite it created. And, it did create one. A 20 foot deep, unprotected trench, is a reckless and dangerous condition. It’s inexcusable for the City to put its workers in such tremendous danger!
Why were the two different sites treated differently? Why do workers employed with private companies get some protection from OSHA while many public workers do not? All workers deserve a safe workplace!
A former U.S. Department of Labor official who writes for the safety blog titled Confined Space had an excellent article on this issue. In his article, Jordan Barab discusses how OSHA largely exempts many public employees from coverage. I highly recommend you read his article to understand how we ignore the safety of our public workers. You can read his article at the Confined Space blog. It is titled, Another Public Employee Killed. But “Nothing To Report.” I could write at length on this topic. But, Barab’s article says everything you need to know. Our public employees are not protected by OSHA and that is unjust. Consider this fact from Barab’s article:
Alabama is one of 24 states in this country where public employees are not covered by OSHA.
After the deadly Huntsville trench collapse involving city employees, I heard from several people close to these workers. They described just how dangerous the worksite was. Our public employees should never have been exposed to such a deadly danger.
Work site safety is an important issue. OSHA should be properly funded. And, OSHA should justly cover all employees. On a broader level, public employees deserve the same safety protections as everyone else. As a community, we should do better.
We are Alabama accident & injury lawyers who believe in advocating for safer roadways, safer workplaces and safer products. From our office in Huntsville, we represent clients statewide.