Are Companies Amoral or Are We Witnessing a Diffusion of Responsibility?

graphic of three headstones saying I Died Early - Why?
Dying Early is just Stupid. Don’t Do It!

I really hope fifteen year old Andrew James died quickly.

July 25, 2008 was a cool, overcast summer morning and Andrew was acting like thousands of young people his age.

He hoped to earn a few extra dollars over the summer by working as a laborer for a local road construction company in Stony Plain, Manitoba, Canada and that day he was helping unload a truck filled with high temperature paving material.

But something went horribly wrong as Andrew monitored the situation from his position behind the truck. The roiling material released unexpectedly fast from the upturning box, instantly trapping Andrew’s feet and legs beneath a burning hot flow of asphalt.

Within seconds he was completely enveloped in a blistering mound of blacktop.

A few harrowing and desperate minutes of rescue activity later revealed that under indifferent management, fifteen precious years of loving investment can evaporate in a few heartbeats. What a terrible and needless loss…

The Business Of Hurting and Killing People

More than 500 young adults between the ages of 15 – 24 will die on the job in the United States this year and while that number is itself hard to comprehend, nearly 800,000 more in that same time frame will receive injuries serious enough to send them to hospital emergency rooms. Employees in this age group are twice as likely as others to be injured on the job.

And that’s not the worst part.

Each and every day throughout 2008, US businesses terminally dispatched 16 employees through various methods while ensuring another 134 folks bit the bullet due to work related diseases. To add insult to insanity, we injure another 11,200 employees every day in the US just to keep them on their toes. (depending on the type of injury, of course)

What Seems To Be The Problem Here?

When it comes to why young folks are injured or killed at work, there are some standard hazards that are not being addressed by the businesses hiring them:

  • Yeah, What He Said – less than 24% of young workers reported that they received safety or even orientation training before starting their job. Most had not even been provided basic equipment use training and 46% of the young adults reported that they had received no training at all. (see links below)
  • Hey Dude, Watch This! – studies show that young males have nearly twice the job accident rate as females and given what most everyone knows about fearless adolescents, it should come as no surprise that special attention to hazard assessments must be undertaken with these employees.
  • No Speakie Until Spoken To – most young people have been told that they must listen to authority and when it doesn’t say anything, they hear that, too. The 15 to 24 year old age group especially need to be reminded to speak up about their human rights because many are uncertain if they qualify as human.
  • We Saw That Old Monkey Do It – because they are so often overlooked when it comes to clear and concise directions, young people automatically emulate their older coworkers. What might provide short term high level activity without experience is really a disaster waiting to happen. Provide the direction they need.
  • Young WhipperSnappers These Days – too many adults have preconceived notions about young people’s ability and willingness to take direction. Unfortunately for adolescents, many are viewed as unconcerned when often their behavior is a result of being afraid to look stupid if they ask too many questions. New employees should not have to ask. Tell them.

Companies Might Be Amoral But Shareholders Are Not

graphic of kid with spiked hair holding a can
Somebody better watch out for me so I can look at everything else

With work related injuries and deaths on the rise for young people and employees in general, all businesses need to rethink their responsibility for the welfare of what is supposedly their most important asset.

Small business owners and managers have an obligation to not only operate enterprises in a manner which allows employees to return home safely but ideally they should be in better condition than when they left.

I anxiously await the day when we are able to dramatically reduce all suffering caused by organized toil so we can invest the lives of young people like Andrew in our collective futures instead of senseless, amoral mistakes.

Then we will all be a little more human.

Thank you, friend.

Barry out.

PS. Follow up with how poorly we are treating our young people at work with this Business Week article and a very informative article from Readers Digest.

http://www.readersdigest.ca/mag/2002/06/teen.html

Younger Workers Higher Injury Rates

Resources for Teachers about Young Worker Safety

http://www.ohsrep.org.au/news-views/features/worksafe-ads-fail-young-workers/index.cfm

19 Responses to “Are Companies Amoral or Are We Witnessing a Diffusion of Responsibility?”

  1. Shocking statistics Barry. I like companies that try and ENHANCE their workers lifestyle by providing Gyms at work for example, and allowing flexible working, so that that employees can actually use them. :-)
    John

    You’re right, John. More companies need to be concerned with the health of their oxen, if that’s what we are…

    Or perhaps us oxen need to be more aware of companies who are more aware…

    I think you know what I’m trying to say.

    Barry

    [Reply]

  2. Most large companies are worse than amoral, they’re sociopathic. Have a look at “dead peasant insurance.” This is a great article showing all the little ways that attitudes contribute to industrial accidents. The downturn in the economy means that less money will be spent on safety materials and procedures, which are expensive. So this will get worse. Look at factory conditions in 3rd world countries and you’re looking at our future. Our corporate industrial overlords know no allegiance except to profit. May the power of humanity prevail!

    You are absolutely right, Jen.

    I wish it wasn’t like this but it is so why would we stick our heads in the sand?

    Everybody has to watch their own back and it would be nice if we could watch out for each other.

    Thanks Jen.

    Barry

    [Reply]

  3. Personal to Mr. Barry-
    I only just got your comment on my mindvoyagers blog today. Sorry to hear about your recent adventure. I rarely check that one, plus I’m writing my ebook. Sure I’m interested in your diet product. I’m willing to read it and if I think I can play along, try the diet. Your blog is filled with fascinating content,I love your humor, maybe we could work together in some fashion. The personal email I check often is raindropnotes@comcast.net

    Thanks Jen.

    I’ll follow up with you by email.

    Have a grand day.

    Barry

    [Reply]

  4. Hi, I just stumbled upon this page from Yahoo and just wanted to take a moment to say thanks for the tips that you’ve written about.

    Thank you Luise. I appreciate you stopping by.

    Have a grand day.

    Barry

    [Reply]

  5. That is a sad story, I’m sorry to hear about Andrew James. These companies have got to stop thinking only about their profits, and start taking care of workers too. Recent studies show that companies and businesses who took the time to look out after their laborers and employees not only benefited from their loyalty but also a higher productivity.

    Hank Jones
    Director Remodeling
    remodeling Phoenix Experts

    [Reply]

    Barry Williams Reply:

    Unfortunately, history shows us that The Powers That Be always think of themselves first and us second. Few companies can get beyond the profit motive to find the human service motive.

    [Reply]

  6. “Companies Might Be Amoral But Shareholders Are Not”

    What makes you think that shareholders are not amoral? Aren’t shareholders again and again putting pressure on the management to increase the revenue? It’s always cheaper (for the company) to ignore industrial safety.

    I don’t know about the US but I appreciate that here in Germany we have strict rules for safety at work and companies are made to be ultimately responsible for the adherence of those set standards.

    Walter Baer
    TattsLotto

    [Reply]

    Barry Williams Reply:

    You are right, of course.

    What I should have said was shareholders CAN be moral while companies cannot. Corporations are legal fictions which have no feelings except for the glee they infect their shareholders with when great profits are realized.

    [Reply]

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