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Texas safety culture puts profits above safety, says National COSH

Gov. Perry blames energy industry hazards for high worker fatality rate

TexasTexas Governor Rick Perry’s recent assertion that his state’s high on-the-job fatality rate is due to the dangerous nature of the energy industry is being contradicted by the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (COSH).

Perry’s comments came during a recent press conference in California which was intended to lure California businesses to his state by emphasizing its low-tax, low-regulation benefits. When asked about Texas’ poor record of worker safety, Perry attributed the high death count to the hazardous nature of the energy industry.

"I don't think it has anything to do with the regulation side," Perry said. "It has to do with the types of jobs we have. You in California are not very knowledgeable about the energy industry, and that is a fairly dangerous workplace."

He added; "We do have our fair share of on-site injuries and deaths at the workplace; but it's not because of a lack of regulation."

From 2008 through 2011, 1,839 workers were killed on the job in Texas, compared to 1,560 in California, despite California having a population some 40 percent greater than Texas.  

National COSH Executive Director Tom O’Connor acknowledged that the energy industry is more dangerous than other industries, but said that “Texas also has a safety culture that appears to prioritize profits above all else. Widespread disregard for workers’ wellbeing is clearly evidenced in the state’s consistently high rate of on-the-job fatalities.”

O’Connor said California's relatively strict regulatory climate has produced a worker fatality rate that is consistently about half that in the state of Texas, based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

California, like Texas, has a complex, diverse economy with great number of workers employed in some of the most dangerous industries: agriculture, construction, oil/gas exploration and refining, and logging. California also has a huge and diverse foreign-born worker population, which is known to be more vulnerable to workplace injury and death. Additionally, California's ongoing financial struggles resulted in a reduction in state OSHA staffing levels. 

National COSH said a lack of employer compliance with OSHA regulations, not just hazardous work, is responsible for many of the worker deaths in the Lone Star State.

The group plans to highlight worker fatalities during Workers’ Memorial Week of Action, which will take place from April 22-28 this year. Visit www.workersmemorialweek.org to learn more.

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