Thought Leadership

I’m so lonesome I could die

January 8, 2010
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One of Hank Williams’ classic songs is “I’m so lonesome I could cry.” A review of fatalities reported to OSHA shows that many deaths are lonesome experiences.

OSHA is now posting on it web site descriptions of on-the-job fatalities on a weekly basis. Employers must report these incidents to OSHA within eight hours.

What struck me looking over the most recent reports is how many on the job deaths occur not on assembly lines or on the shop floor, with victims surrounded by their coworkers, but when workers are off on their own.


Out of communication. Doing the most ordinary, commonplace tasks. Jobs that certainly don’t qualify as high-risk, in most cases anyway, if you were do conduct a risk assessment beforehand.

Take these incidences, for example:

Worker was driving north in patrol vehicle when an attempt was made to pass another northbound vehicle. The vehicles made contact and the worker's vehicle went off the road and hit a utility pole.

Apparently, no one else was in the car.

And remember, most job fatalities occur on the road, in motor vehicle crashes.

Worker was found unresponsive with head injuries next to an overturned stepladder. The worker never regained consciousness.

Many times victims are found after the fact, with the details of the incident never fully clear.

Worker was found in employee locker room and was taken to emergency room. Worker was pronounced dead shortly after of a possible heart attack.

Again, “worker was found”…

Worker suffered a heart attack and died while walking to meet a forklift driver to get supplies.

Here tragedy strikes in the most ordinary of circumstances, a worker walking to get supplies.

Worker was crushed when the equipment he was standing on slid off the trailer it was loaded on. The worker was crushed between the bag house and the remaining equipment on the ground.

Here one worker, standing on equipment, loses stability and his life.

Worker was riding an ATV, and it appears that the vehicle slipped on the steep terrain throwing the worker off and then landing on top of him.

“It appears” this is what happened because no one was present to witness the event.

Worker complained about not feeling well. The worker went home and collapsed about 3 hours later and died before taken to hospital.

Here a sick worker goes home alone and never returns.

Worker was installing copper flashing on a roof and was found unresponsive on the ground between the bases of two ladders.

Again, all there is to go on is “was found unresponsive.” No buddy present, no details.

Worker was delivering medical products and was run over by his own truck.

“Run over by his own truck.” A single vehicle incident.

Worker was walking from the parking lot to the entrance and was run over by a delivery truck.

Again, something as simple and everyday as a walk through a parking lot ends a life.

Worker was shoveling corn into a bucket of a bobcat and was found unresponsive.

“Was found unresponsive.” Who knows what really happened? No one will.

When you send workers out on their own to do a job, what kind of mindfulness training have they received? Because when they’re on their own, whether it’s on a roof, a road, or a telephone pole, it’s their own alertness that they must depend on.
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