U.S. Politics and the Economy

Accidents are No Accident

In the rush for profits workers lives are sacrificed

By Dr. Nayvin Gordon

Remember the Metro-North Railroad Hudson Line passenger train that derailed December 1, 2013, killing 115 passengers, and injuring another 61? It was caused by a lack of safety controls.

Remember the Amtrak Northeast Regional train that derailed in Philadelphia May 12, 2015, killing eight and injuring over 200—11 injured critically? It was caused by a lack of safety controls.

There is a positive train control system that automatically slows or stops a train but they were not installed due to Congressional inactivity, euphemistically know as “budgetary shortfalls.”

Other obvious protections would be to have a minimum of two engineers in the control room of all trains at all times; installation of “dead-man’s” switches in all trains; speed controls on tracks and trains and a reduction of the work day, could all be instituted.

What about the crash that critically injured Tracy Morgan, TV actor on the “30 Rock” show? It was caused by a Walmart employee who suffered from “truck driver fatigue,” a preventable condition that is responsible for killing over 5,000 people a year.

These deaths can be prevented by legalizing, regulating and enforcing shorter working hours, adequate sleep, time for commuting, time for family and time for meals, as well as adjustments for work-shift effects on circadian rhythms.

It was reported in the AP, August 11, 2015, that a report showing air traffic controllers work schedules were causing them to miss sleep chronically and thus contributing to 50 percent of the errors made by air traffic controllers. Instead of immediately insuring that air controllers get eight hours sleep, the U.S. Government kept the report secret for years.

The Government in general works to maintain the profits of the bosses, their finance and industry, not the health of the working class as the above adequately demonstrates. Public health refers to all the organized methods used to prevent disease, promote health and prolong life among the population as a whole. The U.S. Government’s public health activities receive only three percent of the over two trillion dollars spent for health related services.

Only when workers have total control of their working conditions will we have the possibility of making the safety of working people one of the highest priorities of our society.

—September 30, 2016