Trending
MOST READ
Beaches Be Trippin\': Five Texas Coast Spots Worth the Drive

Beaches Be Trippin': Five Texas Coast Spots Worth the Drive

Arts & Culture: Let’s face it, most of us Lone Stars view the Texas coast as a poor man’s Waikiki. Hell, maybe just a poor man’s Panama Beach — only to be used... By Callie Enlow 7/10/2013
Chris Pérez, Selena’s Husband, Faces His Past and Looks Forward, Musically

Chris Pérez, Selena’s Husband, Faces His Past and Looks Forward, Musically

Music: Chris Pérez never saw it coming. “All I ever wanted to do was play guitar,” he told the Current. “I never thought I’d be the subject of an interview... By Enrique Lopetegui 8/28/2013
8 Cultural Gems on the North Side

8 Cultural Gems on the North Side

City Guide 2014: “Outside the Loop” is used as a pejorative by Downtown-centric cool kids, but oases of culture can be found in the sprawling suburbs of the North Side.... By Dan R. Goddard 2/24/2014
Free Things to Do: Kid-friendly

Free Things to Do: Kid-friendly

Free Guide: It’s almost summer, which means that your government-subsidized free daycare (aka public school) goes on hiatus thanks to an archaic allegiance to a rural agriculture economic system that hasn’t been in play for decades. What to do with the wee ones whining 5/21/2014
Chris Perez, husband of slain Tejana icon Selena, tells of romance, suffering

Chris Perez, husband of slain Tejana icon Selena, tells of romance, suffering

Arts & Culture: In one of the final chapters of his book To Selena, With Love (out March 6), Selena's widower Chris Perez mentions that Abraham Quintanilla, his former father-in-law, once... By Enrique Lopetegui 3/7/2012
Calendar

Search hundreds of restaurants in our database.

Search hundreds of clubs in our database.

Follow us on Instagram @sacurrent

Print Email

News

West Fertilizer Co. and the Politics of Disaster

Photo: Photo by Shane Torgerson, License: N/A

Photo by Shane Torgerson

Aerial photo of the west explosion site taken several days after blast (4/22/2013)


Created in 1970 after intense lobbying from labor unions, OSHA inspections and regulations led to an immediate decrease in workplace injuries and fatalities. However the ascension of Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, with his focus on small government, sent the agency into a tailspin. Cuts to OSHA’s funding became a regular part of yearly budget compromises. Under industry pressure, OSHA adopted a policy of voluntary compliance wherein business was entrusted to regulate itself.

The 30-year assault on OSHA’s budget led to the dwindling effectiveness of the agency. The number of OSHA inspectors peaked in 1980 at 2,950. Today, with 50 million more workers in the workforce, OSHA’s staff has been reduced to 2,178. The continual creation of bureaucratic hurdles means that it now takes eight years for OSHA to promulgate simple regulations. The organization is so understaffed and underfunded that it can only inspect each workplace in the country once every 175 years. Its paltry annual budget of half a billion dollars is 15 times smaller than that of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Cuts to OSHA mean serious consequences. In 2011, the latest year for which the Bureau of Labor Statistics has full statistics, more Americans died from work-related accidents (4,609) than died in the entire eight-year war in Iraq; and 2011 was a down year due to high unemployment. In the 20 years spanning 1992 to 2011, almost twice as many Americans died in work related accidents (115,007) as died in the 20-year Vietnam War.

In Texas, where Governor Rick Perry has worked hard to create a business-friendly, anti-union atmosphere, Texans have been forced to pay an especially high toll. With only 98 OSHA inspectors in the state, Texas has the fourth highest ratio of workers to inspectors in the country. Texas led the nation in work-related fatalities in 2011 with 433, outpacing the next state on the list, California, despite California’s much larger workforce.

Many labor rights advocates hoped that the election of President Barack Obama would lead to a revitalization of OSHA. But the agency continues to be the target of Washington belt tightening. Cuts mandated by the Sequester (8.2% for OSHA) will only increase the number of already-planned layoffs for fiscal year 2013.

Going to work remains one of the most dangerous things a person can do in the United States. This is especially true in the state of Texas where politicians like George W. Bush and Rick Perry have spearheaded a hands-off approach when it comes to business. With the much-hyped effort to “turn Texas blue,” one wonders whether OSHA can be saved, at least in this state. Or will it be politics as usual?

Mary Anne Henderson is a SA native currently pursuing her Ph.D in history at University of Washington, Seattle.

Recently in News
  • Texas Law Leaves Abortion Out of Reach for Many Women Texas’ sweeping abortion law has already eliminated all abortion clinics south of San Antonio, and the last clinic west of the city... | 8/27/2014
  • Cityscrapes: A race to the convention floor “Conventions go to the city which exerts the greatest efforts to secure them. San Antonio can get any convention that it goes after.” That was the position... | 8/27/2014
  • Mayoral Horserace Once elected next spring, San Antonio’s new mayor will have just a few months to prepare for the 2016 budget... | 8/27/2014
We welcome user discussion on our site, under the following guidelines:

To comment you must first create a profile and sign-in with a verified DISQUS account or social network ID. Sign up here.

Comments in violation of the rules will be denied, and repeat violators will be banned. Please help police the community by flagging offensive comments for our moderators to review. By posting a comment, you agree to our full terms and conditions. Click here to read terms and conditions.
comments powered by Disqus