Gore in the workplace â?¦ but not on the propellor blades 

Greg Harman


Contrary to popular opinion, reporting isn't all about crime, death, disease, and botched Botox. News manipulators celebrate the sunny news as much as the next disenfranchised heartbroken whelp. Like when AGE Refining didn't blow up half of South San Antonio? We cheered hearty cheers in the Current news room during that smoker and thought how good it is to live in a city not Houston. You know, where the chemical fires are fewer and father between.

Things got even more happy this week when we heard from the Texas Parks & Wildlife about you water folk. It turns out the number of Texans who accidentally gargled their outboard propellers or looped a Granny knot around their necks is down again after a bloody 2008.

Two years ago, there were a total of 272 boating accidents, resulting in 175 injuries and 62 deaths. Last year, by comparison, there were a mere 207 accidents, 139 injuries, and 38 deaths among boaters. "We don't know for sure what caused the decrease in boating deaths, but we do think two contributing factors are saturation law enforcement and educational outreach," said Game Warden Maj. Jeff Parrish, TPW's marine safety chief, in a prepared release.

If you've had lots of water cops getting tangled in your 12-pound test this year, expect that to continue as Parks folks work to keep the number of soggy dead low this year. However, things were not so rosy in the oil patch and chicken shacks, according to OSHA workplace fatality statistics.

Included below are some of the more “colorful” fatalities recorded in the first three months of 2010. Consider them object lessons in paying attention when operating 1) high above the ground, 2) under heavy stuff, and 3) with things marked "deadly."

* A worker at Cooper T. Smith Stevedoring in Houston climbed a ladder to see whether his gang was hard at work or hardly working when a crane knocked him down to the ship's main deck and he was caught by a pipe and dragged under the crane stopped.

* At Kenedy's Church's Fried Chicken, a worker was washing down the deep freeze with a pressure washer, but failed to smell the odorless carbon monoxide the gas-powered machine was putting out.

* A Center Point Energy worker in Baytown made it 58 feet up a tower before the convulsions set in. Turned out there really aren't that many ways to fall.

* Workers at Texas Disposal in Austin had propped a water pump on four jacks to work beneath the chassis. That was exactly the number of jacks the job required, as someone found out too late after removing one.

* Says “Do Not Over Inflate” for a reason, a Martinez Tire Shop worker in Houston learned the hard way.

* In Angleton, workers at Thermal Polymer Systems were coating the interior of a trailer tank when the fumes caught fire. Three down; one permanently.

* Potting soil at Color Spot Nurseries in New Summerfield was accidentally enriched when a worker got into the hopper while the auger was rotating. Said worker's clothes got pinched by the auger, sucking said worker into the blade.

* Hydrogen sulfide gas may smell like rotten eggs, but it's far, far rottener, as four workers found out when they attempted to replace a vent line on top of a tank battery at Sheridan Production in Big Spring. One dead.

* Worker at Crete Carrier in Houston didn't hear the other trailer backing up.

* When the bed of your dump truck gets stuck in the up position, it is best not to crawl under it to “rock the ram back into position,” as a worker at Vidor's Bully Bros discovered.

We'd love to be able to tell you if the three-month period was a busy one, say, compared to past there-month periods. But when we called OSHA for those '09 figures they said we'd better use the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, since the BLS included contract employees in their stats. And, as everyone knows, it's the contractor that eats shit in this world.

Buzzing the BLS, we got nowhere. We've pretty much decided if there are humans working for the agency, they are so well hidden they probably aim to stay that way for some time yet. But we'll check back again later, maybe when the next crop of death and dismemberment figures are ready.



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