Burned Alive at Work: American Workers Dying in Totally Preventable Accidents
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Meanwhile, dust accidents continue. In February, after a dust explosion, OSHA cited a Wisconsin company that makes whey products. In April, the agency issued violations to a New Hampshire wood pellet mill where a dust-fueled fire spread throughout the building. The same month, the agency alleged violations – some of them willful, which OSHA says are intentional violations or those committed with indifference to the law – at an Illinois pasta manufacturer where two workers were seriously burned in a sugar dust explosion.
“I think the universal theme is that these accidents are a symptom of the fact that there isn’t a comprehensive dust standard,” said Daniel Horowitz, the CSB’s managing director. “Hoeganaes really illustrates how problems like this can fall through the cracks at every level.”
A father’s memory
In Gallatin, dust piled up for years despite inspections, audits and small fires.
“They need a set of guidelines,” Chris Sherburne said. “If there was a standard, I think that would have made a lot of difference because there was so much [dust] there at the time.”
As the gears grind in Washington, she’s raising a teenage son and tending to a 34-acre patch of farmland. She hasn’t given up on some of the plans she and Wiley made. They had always hoped to build a new house on their land to replace their double-wide, and in December 2010 — about a month before his death — they’d decided to start the following spring.
Chris stuck to the plan, functioning as her own general contractor. “I decided to just build it and see what happens,” she said recently.
Last December, Chris and her son moved into their new house. No pictures of Wiley adorn the walls or mantelpieces. “It’s easier for us not to have stuff in plain view,” Chris said. When Wiley’s body was cremated, at first the ashes sat on Chris’ bedroom dresser. “After a few days,” she recalled, “I said, ‘Wiley I can’t look at you every day; I can’t do this.’ He’s in the closet now.”
Some reminders are inescapable. Chris and her son have kept his tools and work clothes, keepsakes of the man who could fix anything. “You could bring him a motor in a box, and he’d put it back together,” Chris recalled.
As their son approached driving age, the plan was for Wiley to help him find a clunker and fix it up. Instead, he now drives his father’s souped-up Dodge Ram 2500. “Every now and then, when I see it coming up the driveway,” Chris said, “for a split second I still think it’s Wiley.”