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Workplace deaths are not a “Mens Rights Issue”

April 3, 2013

I know the statistic; men account for 90%+ of workplace deaths. It’s one of those statistics that can’t really be argued because the raw numbers are easily accessible, are only ever disputed within a few points of each other and the results are rather self-explanatory. People die while working, and the vast majority of those deaths happen to be male. For the time being, we’re not going to touch “work” regarding military, because that’s a whole other bag of worms.

But just because those affected are predominantly male; doesn’t make it a “male” issue. Male issues, at least in my personal perspective, are things that affect men *because* they are male. Prostate cancer is a male issue, because it predominately affects males (although women can still get prostate cancer) because of our biology. Workplace deaths don’t happen because of our biology, but because of specific choices and sets of circumstances.

Do men have a right to a safe workplace? Absolutely. Do men as a demographic enter more dangerous fields of work? Absolutely. Are men as a group affected more by dangerous, hazardous and fatal workplace deaths? Absolutely. Then how is it not a MRA issue? I’m not saying MRA’s shouldn’t advocate and campaign for safer work environments, I’m simply saying it’s not your fight, and you shouldn’t co-opt it as such.

Wait wait, there’s good news here, so hold off on the pitchforks for a moment.

In my work history I’ve had the opportunity to work in a lot of different fields and environments. I was even on a safety council for a few months at one site. I can say without a doubt that companies do take it seriously, at least 90%+ of them do. Here’s a few examples…

I worked at Intel for a bit, and they were borderline anal about safety. Here’s an official stance on the matter; http://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/corporate-responsibility/environmental-health-safety-policy-otellini.html …unofficially, I can tell you they were so concerned, that I was rarely allowed to work without a partner, and never without the proper paperwork and support structure. They even had rounded mirrors at every hallway intersection for the sole purpose of preventing people from walking into each other around corners.

I once had to get a band-aid for a cut (a few millimeters at most, no blood, but open enough to justify a band-aid), and a massive review was required. Safety protocols were reviewed, a report was filed, several people were contacted and multiple meetings were held. All that, for a fucking band-aid. It was an accident at best, and I maintained full responsibility of my own actions that resulted in it occurring, because they would have fired the other party otherwise.

That’s how seriously Intel takes it’s safety procedures.

Several other companies I did work for had very strict policies, including a well-known one; “lock out tag out”… http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/controlhazardousenergy/ …often done by at least 2 individuals; so you had two people verify the work was completely and sign off on the OK-go.

I have spent a ridiculous amount of time sitting through safety meetings, trainings, videos, reviews, tests. Often having to go through them yearly, not allowed to even touch equipment until the documents were completed, my tests were passed (universally 100% rating as the only acceptable one), the work was reviewed, someone was there to inspect everything and I followed proper procedures to the letter. Often it took more time to go through all the red tape than it did to actually do the work.

These are companies from high-end electronics to your local bakeries. Multiple government programs and bodies insure ample support to anyone who ever raises a safety concern at work. Safety inspectors, fire marshals, etc. The insurance payouts, safety fines, down time; these are all costs companies want to avoid while keeping productive employees alive to do their job.

I worked with one company last year that was setting records for the longest stretch of time with no safety incidents. Then a tragedy hit and a worker died on the job. The *entire* company shut down for the day to determine what happened, how they could fix the issue and re-educate all their employees. When I say *entire*, I mean the *entire*, nation wide company. All locations; even the one’s across the country. They did not fuck around and they took care of the person’s family.

Now; there are exceptions. There are jobs out there that don’t have such stringent safety protocols. The Crabbing industry for one. And of course there’s a discussion to be had regarding safety in the workplace; Mike Rowe certainly brings up some interesting considerations in his TED talk… http://www.ted.com/talks/mike_rowe_celebrates_dirty_jobs.html

Everyone has probably had at least one moment in their life where they had to weigh potential risks against potential rewards. I know I’ve had a few and I’m currently dealing with at least one. It isn’t always a life or death situation; they just tend to get the most press for obvious reasons.

Many of workplace fatalities are avoidable. Sometimes people make mistakes; they forget procedure, they overlook something simple, they don’t double-check something. Learning from each situation helps improve things for the future employees. And yes, each one of them is a tragedy, regardless of circumstance. Someone died, and that just sucks.

Many workplace fatalities are also just a matter of pure chance. Working with unpredictable animals for one… http://news.yahoo.com/founder-worker-killed-lion-female-intern-001914140.html …among other simply random occurrences that no one could reasonably prepare for. Parts failing, things exploding, a surge, etc.

But all of these thing illustrate the point I’m attempting to make; these things do not happen *because* someone is male(or female for that matter). They happen by choice, by neglect, by random events, but not because you’re a man. It’s coincidence, correlation at best, but certainly not causation.

I simply don’t understand how framing this problem as a gendered issue is going to solve the problem. It always struck me odd when someone asks what Feminism is going about it if they are for equality. What is Feminism supposed to do about it? What are MRA’s supposed to do about it?

The obvious potential solution is one of personal choice. You make the decision regard risk VS reward; you accept the risk. So long as people are provided the appropriate information and make the decision on their own accords, I can’t see a problem in it. Insomuch that the company isn’t woefully negligent for questionable reasons. Like not providing a hard-hat to an employee because they’re cheap. By all means ream those cheap corporate bastards for neglecting your safety.

I’ve refused to do work that was unsafe and I’ve done work that was horribly unsafe (have you ever tried to separate a raging hormonal bull from a pen full of heffers?). Each time I assessed the situation and made a judgment call. Admittedly, I may have done so in haste at times and without a full concept of the entire situation. But that’s my choice. And as Mike Rowe suggests; if it prevents the work from actually getting done, what’s the point?

I’m not going to stop you from pointing out the statistic (because it’s accurate). I’m not going to stop you from working toward fixing the issue (because it’s something that should always be in discussion). I’m not even going to stop you from ranting against Feminism for not doing a damn thing about it (because it isn’t). But I will point out that the reasons these things happen goes beyond what you happen to be packing in your pants. And attributing the issue and the fix to the issue as “gendered” is a massive misappropriation of reasoning.

My suggestion; look after yourself and those around you. And preaching wonderful advice here; stop and think… not only will it help you learn, it just might save your life.

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From → Feminism, Men, Mens Rights, MRA

2 Comments
  1. Doug Spoonwood permalink

    First off, I’ll say that I don’t quite understand why you have highlighted workplace fatalities and seemed to downplay serious, debilitating workplace injuries. That, of course, comes as my perception and I might have read you too quickly.

    Second, I think you have an interesting viewpoint here and raise an important question in general… just because we have a disparity of condition among the sexes, that doesn’t imply discrimination. I do agree that men don’t suffer injuries or die on the job because of their sex. However, I think it worthwhile to at least consider the question “but why do men go into those hazardous, dangerous jobs so much more often than women?”

    Now, I can see a few possible answers here. Men go into those hazardous, dangerous jobs, because their chemical makeup tends to encourage them to go into such jobs more than women. Or men go into those jobs more often, because they don’t have wombs and thus they historically could take on more risks without any risk of decreased population growth (if men die at work, that’s no big deal in terms of population growth, since one man can do the work of several women in terms of reproduction). Or men go into those jobs, because those jobs in general require more physical strength, and thus since men on average have more physical strength than women, they’ll go into those jobs more often.

    OR men go into those jobs so much more often, because they get viewed as masculine jobs and we, as well as almost all societies, socialize boys to take risks and don’t socialize girls to take such risks. Even with (arguable) recent dating world changes, we still expect men to initiate courtship/dating. In other words, we expect men to take the emotional risks. We still expect men to try and save anyone in danger, and thus take on risks that we don’t expect of women (to the same extent). So, we do know that we still do expect men to take risks in certain areas where we don’t expect women to take risks… or at least we expect men to take risks to a greater degree than we expect women to take risks. Consequently, do men tend to go into “the death professions” MUCH more than women, because we *psychologically expect and socialize* men to take on more risks than women?

    If men do go into the death professions for that reason, or at least a significant number of men go into those professions because of their socialization and the psychological expectations other have of them, expectations which we don’t have of women, then it follows that gender expectations strongly influence men to go into those professions. Therefore, the death professions do become a men’s issue (though the term “rights” here, I think, seems all too strong, since expectations of one’s society don’t necessarily infringe on your rights). Ideally, it would also consist of a feminist issue, since if men have such an expectation, and if feminists want a “level playing field”, then you will want to have the same expectations of women that you have of men (as far as possible).

    But, how many feminists would say “we need to create a society where we EXPECT strong, capable women to go into skyscraper construction, lumberjacking, garbage collecting, and coal mining”? I don’t doubt they exist, just that not many feminists would fight for changing expectations of women like that.

  2. First off, I’ll say that I don’t quite understand why you have highlighted workplace fatalities and seemed to downplay serious, debilitating workplace injuries. That, of course, comes as my perception and I might have read you too quickly.

    Because all of my personal experiences (and those I am personally aware of) have always either been death or an injury that was healed. I accept your point and grant that it is part of the issue, but that does not change my stance on the matter. Permanent injury, or death, is a situation that should be avoided on the job when it can. And it is the primary responsibility of the person to make that judgment call.

    As for the rest of it, I would suggest rereading my ‘Expecting Expectations’ and ‘Fixing a problem using the problem’ posts. That might make my position a little more clear.

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