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Say Their Names: Experts, Advocates Call on U.S. Chemical Safety Board to Report Names of Workers Who Died on the Job

Wednesday, June 19, 2019
Press Contacts: 

Roger Kerson, roger@nationalcosh.org, 734.645.0535

Say Their Names:
Experts, Advocates Call on
U.S. Chemical Safety Board to Report Names of
Workers Who Died on the Job

“A simple, but powerful fact that these individuals are not statistics”

SAN DIEGO, CA – In a letter to the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB), more than 50 experts and advocates in occupational safety and health are calling on the agency to once again include the names of workers who have died on the job in its reports of chemical releases and explosions.

Including the names of those who died in fatal chemical incidents, states the letter, is “a simple, but powerful fact that these individuals are not statistics.”

The CSB, an independent federal agency charged with investigating industrial chemical incidents, has included names of fatally-injured workers in its reports since 2014. The agency changed its policy with the release of its most recent report, about a fatal gas well blowout in Oklahoma.

The January 2018 incident claimed the lives of five workers: Josh Ray, Mike Smith, Cody Risk, Parker Waldridge, and Roger Cunningham.  Their names, drawn from news media accounts, do not appear anywhere in the CSB report.

“CSB investigations analyze why tragic chemical incidents occurred and how to prevent them in the future. These reports are very valuable,” said Peter Dooley, safety and health project consultant for National COSH.  “But the whole point of these investigations is to document the facts and make recommendations to save lives.  Workers who die on the job have names, faces and families. Leaving out these basic facts makes a report less accurate and fails to communicate what is at stake when proper safety programs are not implemented in workplaces.”

Explaining the change in policy, a CSB spokesperson has stated that “[p]lacing the names of individuals that were fatally injured … may infer culpability on the part of the entity responsible for the operation of the facility where the incident occurred.”

“Including all the facts about chemical incidents – with the names of workers who have died – does not change the findings, conclusions or recommendations of any CSB report,” said Celeste Monforton, a lecturer in public health at Texas State University and a member of the panel that investigated West Virginia’s 2010 Upper Big Branch mining disaster, which claimed 29 lives. “These documents are official government reports and the victims’ names must be part of the historical record of these catastrophic events. Censoring the names of the dead makes the record incomplete.”

“There’s not a day that goes by when I don’t think of my husband,” says Holly Shaw-Hollis, a workplace safety activist and a member of the board of directors of both National COSH and the Philadelphia Project on Occupational Safety and Health (PhilaPOSH). Her husband Scott died after a fall from a commercial barge in Philadelphia in 2002. “All these years later, my sons and I still say his name, whether it’s Daddy or Scott.  If someone put out a report about what happened and left out his name, I would be furious. Scott was not a number. He was a person – a person we loved. He deserves to be remembered, and so do other workers who died. Family and friends never forget.”

Signers of the letter to CSB including representatives of non-profit advocacy and service organizations, labor unions, public health educators, and experts in occupational safety and health.  Advocates plan to address the issue during the next scheduled public meeting of the CSB, which takes place on June 25th at 10 AM EDT, at 1750 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Suite 910  in Washington DC.

Members of the public from other locations can participate in the CSB meeting by calling toll free: 1-888.517.2470, pass code 6466 864#

National COSH maintains a U.S. Worker Fatality Database --  with names of workers included when available -- to make factual information about workplace fatalities available to the public. 

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National COSH links the efforts of local worker health and safety coalitions in communities across the United States,
advocating for elimination of preventable hazards in the workplace.
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