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ConnectiCOSH regarding Becky Mclain lawsuit against Pfizer ConnectiCOSH
CT Council on Occupational Safety & Health
683 North Mountain Road · Newington, CT 06111 · (860) 953-COSH (2674) · Fax (860) 953-1038

Statement of Steven Schrag, ConnectiCOSH regarding Becky Mclain lawsuit against Pfizer

Good afternoon. My name is Steve Schrag and I am a board member of the Connecticut Council on Occupational Safety and Health (ConnectiCOSH). ConnectiCOSH is a coalition of unions and occupational health professionals working together to reduce workplace hazards.

Becky McClain and the Middletown gas plant explosion are two examples of what workers face every day. It is the “fear factor”. Workers are afraid to raise their voice about workplace hazards because supervisors can find a million ways to make their life miserable, including firing them. Employers are not afraid of government agencies because the amount of fines levied is the cost of a Christmas party and the number of inspectors to enforce the law are too few. We must do better.

The Conagra plant where a gas explosion occurred last year was fined just over $100,000. OSHA has around 1,700 inspectors for 7,000,000 private sector workplaces. That is 4,117 workplaces for each inspector. New leadership at OSHA will hopefully improve enforcement. We must do better.

It has been 35 days since the Middletown gas plant explosion. 560 workers have died in this country since then. That is the equivalent of two plane crashes. United flight 7302 left Hartford at 3 pm and god forbid it crashed, it would get much more attention than the 16 workers who died every day since February 7. We must do better.

We are expecting that our federal legislators will co-sponsor and fight to pass the Protecting America’s Worker Act (HR 2067 S 1580). This legislation would reduce the workers fear factor by strengthening the whistleblower protections and increase the employer’s fear factor by making criminal penalties more likely when workers die on the job.

There is no excuse for Connecticut elected officials not to support this legislation. There is no excuse why Congress should not pass this before July this year. We will work to make it happen. We don’t want any more workers like Becky McClain or the six workers who died in Middletown to face these problems again. We know we can do better and will.

March 15, 2010