Charleston on the job injury lawyers want to highlight an initiative being promoted by a Summerville couple who lost their son in an industrial machine accident on the North Charleston waterfront. They are working to gain a following for a local observance of National Workers Memorial Day, an event that is a tribute to workers killed in South Carolina. The observance took place last Thursday, April 28, and is 20-year-old recognition that has, unfortunately, gained little traction in South Carolina, but this Summerville couple is working to change the states feelings toward fatal on the job injuries.
The couple doesn’t consider themselves activists; rather as parents who don’t want other families to suffer same pain they have, losing a son or daughter in a place where they are supposed to be safe, the workplace. In December of 2005 the Summerville mother drove to Detyens Shipyard to pick up her son, a 2005 graduate of Summerville High School who had followed in his father’s footsteps, working part-time as a maritime pipe fitter.
Upon reaching the shipyard, she was met with by the flashing lights of emergency vehicles, and to find out her son died after an accidental release of waste into the holding tank of the military supply ship her son was working. The ship was being refitted in a dry dock at Detyens. While some of her son’s coworkers were able to escape the holding tank, he was overcome by hydrogen sulfide, a toxic colorless gas produced by raw sewage.
First District U.S. Representative Tim Scott was the guest speaker at a candlelight service hosted by the Summerville couple and Palmetto Land Baptist Church in Summerville. Although Representative Scott was in attendance, the family stresses the fact that this is not a political thing. The event was to remember and recognize South Carolinians who died on the job, in incidents ranging from serious trucking accidents and equipment accidents to random acts of violence.
Labor issues are not just about wages and dollars, they are multifaceted, and attention needs to be placed on dignity and safety. And in South Carolina these issues are tough to regard as, generally, lawmakers in Columbia put business needs first, with labor interests near the bottom of the priorities list, if on the list at all.
But, with that being said, and considering the U.S. Department of Labor’s most recent tabulations, fatal on the job injuries seem to be declining in South Carolina. In the 7 years of available data the state has gone from 115 fatal injuries in 2003 to 73 on the job deaths in 2009, with a peak of 132 fatalities in 2005, the year the Summerville couple’s son was the unfortunate victim of an industrial accident.
The numbers covered by the Department of Labor’s tabulations include slip and falls, equipment issues, exposure to harmful substances or environment, transportation fatalities, fires and explosions, and assaults or other violent acts.