Alabama embraces auto industry jobs at high safety cost, report says

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Alabama’s embrace of the auto industry has brought in thousands of jobs for the state, though it has come at the price of safety according to a long-form piece by Peter Waldman of Bloomberg.

The article combs through thousands of pages of records from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration that show dozens of preventable accidents that have left many Alabamian autoworkers without fingers, limbs and sometimes their lives.

“Employees work ungodly hours, six or seven days a week, for months on end. Pay is low, turnover is high, training is scant and safety is an afterthought, usually after someone is badly hurt,” Waldman writes. “Many of the same woes that typify work conditions at contract manufacturers across Asia now bedevil parts plants in the South.”

According to the OSHA records, the chances of losing a finger or limb at an Alabama parts factory in 2015 was double the rate for the American auto industry as a whole.

“The pressure inside parts plants is wreaking a different American carnage than the one Trump conjured up at his inauguration. OSHA records obtained by Bloomberg document burning flesh, crushed limbs, dismembered body parts, and a flailing fall into a vat of acid. The files read like Upton Sinclair, or even Dickens,” the article says.

The article details a series of horrible accidents suffered by plant workers, most of which were due to manufacturing companies not providing proper safety training to their employees.

Among the cases are the death of Regina Elsea, who was pinned to a steel dashboard by a manufacturing robot; Nathaniel Walker, who fell into a vat of acid while trying to clean a tank; and Reco Allen, a janitor who lost his left arm to a stamping machine when his supervisor illegally took him off mop duty to work on the line.

Allen eventually reached a multimillion-dollar settlement with the company, Matsu, and bought a big house on 15 acres with a fish pond.

“I’d rather have my arm back any day,” Allen says.

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