Since the recent expansion announcements by both Toyo Tires and SEWSON America, Georgia’s elected officials have been applauding the promised creation of at least 250 total jobs between the two companies. Those jobs are expected to become available in SEWSON’s Troup County manufacturing plant and a new Toyo Tires production facility in Cartersville in the near future. With statewide unemployment at 3.6% as of October 2018, new local jobs are certainly something to celebrate, but struggling Georgia residents deserve safer, healthier opportunities to support themselves and their families than the few options Toyo and SEWSON are likely to provide.
Factory Work Continues to Be One of the Most Dangerous Professions
The National Safety Council ranks manufacturing and production as the third most dangerous industry for American workers, after police/firefighting and transportation/shipping. Between 2011 and 2016, the U.S’s manufacturing industry as a whole saw an annual average of 331 deaths and a further 123,863 injuries severe enough to require days off work. The vast majority of these incidents affected workers directly involved in production. Most manufacturing injuries reported to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) are caused by:
- Contact with machinery
- Being struck by falling objects
Of course, the blanket category of manufacturing covers many different kinds of work, and zeroing in on the automotive industry, and companies like Toyo and SEWSON, only makes the picture grimmer. The manufacture of rubber products, and tires in particular, has been linked by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) with “excess deaths from bladder, stomach, lung, hematopoietic, and other cancers.”
In an Industry Full of Worker’s Rights Violations, SEWSON Stands Out in the Wrong Way
An investigation by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2013 found SEWON’s safety record to be the most dismal of Georgia’s few manufacturing plants, peppered with reports of employees being blackmailed into working 12-hour days and 7-day weeks without adequate safety gear. Some workers were set on fire or blinded by unshielded welding flames and sparks. Others suffered lacerations and crushing injuries from machinery without functioning safety shutoffs.
While SEWON’s representatives claimed in interviews that the company was working on the problems, they certainly haven’t been solved, judging by an OSHA audit in 2017. The $308,906 in fines imposed on SEWSON that year covered 29 separate serious violations, including having unqualified employees performing electrician duties, and failing to install required safety guards that could have prevented at least one accidental amputation.
Hazardous Manufacturing Practices Are Profitable, not Unavoidable
Obviously, Georgia residents need jobs, and manufacturing work needs to be done. There’s no reason increasing local production shouldn’t be a good thing. The problem comes not from manufacturing itself, but from the deadly combination of companies with a demonstrated disregard for workers’ wellbeing, and a workforce living in fear of unemployment.
Hard economic times should never be an excuse for treating human beings as disposable. If you’ve been injured, or lost a loved one, because of an employer’s failure to observe safety precautions mandated by OSHA regulations and common sense, take action today by calling the Stoddard Firm.