Health and Safety

Steelworker's thoughts

The dangerous conditions that are a part of work in a steel mill have always make safety an important issue. Oftentimes the most difficult task in safety awareness came from trying to convince the workers themselves of its importance. There is a Union Safety representative, presently Jim Mulholland, and a Company Safety representative, presently Ed Breach. There is also a safety committee among the workers who actively support safety in the mill. These committees are trying to get workers to think about safety and how it affects themselves. They believe that this approach would be more effective than having someone else breathing down their throat. Occasionally, workers are willing to risk an accident in order to get the job done. In the words of Michael Stubljar, a retired Steelworker,

"If safety interfered with production, then you threw safety out the window. Get the steel out, that's the main thing. That's what pays you, safety don't pay you nothing."

There are always small accidents that are taken for granted. Burns, scrapes, bruises, or even the loss of an appendage or one's sight is not uncommon. These accident victims oftentimes return to the same job that they were injured on, for example, Michael Bratina, another retired Steelworker.

"There are risks...I had to free up this shear, and the machine's automatically supposed to shut off when this happens. I assumed it was off, but it wasn't and it sliced my hand right off, just like that."

He returned to the mill, working for twenty more years in the same department, maintenance and he still believes that there was a good push for safety in the mill even though the safety program is better today.

"Bethlehem Steel had a good safety program, they did you know. There were lapses in it, but they preached safety...with the new rules today, the kids would sue Bethlehem Steel to death. The dirt we would breath in on a good sunny day, you could look in the open hearth when the sun shone down, it was nothing but dust...A lot of the steelworkers didn't live to see sixty-five. If they hadn't worked there, they might have lived to see a hundred."

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