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Today, In These Times labor reporter Mike Elk appeared on Democracy Now discussing how the West, Texas fertilizer plant explosion is symptomatic of an inadequate workplace safety regulatory structure that leads to the deaths of 4,500 Americans every year on the job. Despite there being over 8 million workplaces in the United States, the US only has 2,200 OSHA inspectors. OSHA on average could inspect a facility like the West, Texas fertilizer plant once only every 129 years. Indeed, according to OSHA records, the West, Texas plant had not been inspected by OSHA in the last 5 years.
Despite the dangers posed by the plant evident in the explosion, in 2006 the company told the EPA that the plant posed no risk of explosion. As Tom O'Connor, Executive Director of the National Council on Occupational Safety and Health told In These Times earlier today, "It looks like in the plant's application for a permit, it checked 'no' in the box asking whether it was a fire or explosion hazard." At a minimum, someone at the EPA ought to be looking a little more carefully at these permits to verify their accuracy. Any plant with a large volume of explosive chemicals is clearly a fire/explosion hazard.
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Miles Kampf-Lassin, a graduate of New York University’s Gallatin School in Deliberative Democracy and Globalization, is a Web Editor at In These Times. Follow him on Twitter @MilesKLassin