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I'm really angry about this story on BoingBoing, which takes an awful industrial accident and plays it for laughs. (Its antecedent is a BBC story which is very careful to keep on the right side of the line). For some reason I've got no comment link on the story, so I'm commenting here.

One of the concerns of Rita Donaghy, whose report into fatalities in the construction industry was published yesterday, is that the public trivialises workplace injury and death. Normally my view is that this isn't generally so; but sometimes I wonder.

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I'd already given up on boingboing. That story reminds me why.

I find Xeni Jardin's closing remark offensive, the one about coworkers who were "seemingly dismayed."

I confess, the Smothers Brothers song ("Chocolate") came immediately to mind. The song is pure humor, no death. But when it's been floating around one's brain and culture for 40 years, it's a sure-fire recipe for the humorous approach to the real thing.

I don't think it has anything to do with whether or not the death occurred on the job. When people die in bizarre, unlikely circumstances, people are likely to laugh at the sheer unexpectedness of it. And when those circumstances tie right into the memes of a culture, of course people are going to think of them. This one hit on three of them -- one comparatively modern and two from the Boomer generation. At least one was embraced by the Boomer's children, too.

I do think Rita Donaghy has a point, at least from the perspective of the general public. Maybe it's a reflection of my own growing-up years. Mining accidents -- mostly cave-ins -- occurred frequently when I was a child. The media coverage was always scary and tense, but the accidents happened so frequently that they were part of the landscape of my life. They were "normal." I didn't know anyone in Kentucky, West Virginia, or Pennsylvania; I was never personally touched by the tragedies. Add to that sailors lost in shipwrecks over the millennia, limbs and lives lost in farm accidents, the risks of working in a steel mill, paving roads, building skyscrapers, and more....etc

No one expects office workers to be injured or die in a work-related accident, yet they are. Not as commonly as other professions, but the whole topic is one in a generation of changed sensibilities and expectations. As traditional blue-collar jobs dwindle, I expect the easy acceptance of workplace accidents will slowly be replaced by more awareness and concern.

It was the 'seemingly dismayed' comment that tipped me over the edge, too. These people's co-worker has just died; how do you think they ought to feel? Xeni Jardin does appear to have a tin ear for appropriate language choice sometimes.

I think that line was supposed to be part of the quote from the BBC article - it's not there any more but I can find it in a cached version. Presumably the BBC thought the better of it.

I gave up on BoingBoing a while ago for various other annoyances, and this is a handy reminder that it's not any better.

I found this story just appalling, posted it on an IRC channel and got the response that "120˚ isn't so bad".

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No, it's Fahrenheit (chocolate, remember). But clearly it was bad enough anyway.

I agree. It's one thing to think a line like that or even say it to friends but to use it as the basis for an article in something as widely read as BoingBoing was going too far. The thing that concerns me about the accident is that it is yet another case of a temporary worker getting hurt. I think there needs to be some serious rethinking of what jobs should and shouldn't be suitable for temporary workers with limited training on the equipment and it's potential dangers.

The good news is that here in the UK, this year's fatal accident statistics were the best ever -- 180. Still too many, and that doesn't count work-related road traffic accidents (another thousand or so) or deaths from occupational cancer (5000-10000 depending on how you count, of which asbestos accounts for about 3-4000).

Although staff training is important, equipment of this kind shouldn't rely wholly on staff training to make it safe; it should be designed to be safe even if staff make errors.

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