Business magazines seldom decry the mistreatment of workers, but even Fortune Magazine was agog when a Workers’ Memorial Day report from the AFL-CIO showed that employers responsible for a fatal accident paid a median penalty of only $5,050. It’s a pretty shocking number, for sure, but you can easily check out what kind of fines firms are paying yourself – and other details of workplace accident investigations – by visiting OSHA’s Establishment Search page.
The low value we seem to place on workers’ lives may be part of the reason that more than 4,500 workers are killed every year in traumatic workplace accidents. And the real toll is ten times higher, researchers believe: the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries doesn’t even try to count the tens of thousands of workers who die before their time of cancers and lung conditions from chronic occupational exposure to hazardous chemicals, airborne silica dust or other disease-causing substances.
It has now been two years since the terrible Rana Plaza collapse claimed the lives of more than one thousand Bangladeshi garment workers and brought the attention of the world -- and not least, Pope Francis -- to the ongoing scandal of human lives sacrificed for commerce. What will we do in 2015 to reduce that grim toll, at home and in the developing world?