On Safety

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State of the Union sidesteps safety

January 29, 2014

In his State of the Union address on Jan. 28, President Barack Obama touched on how the growing oil and gas industry might help improve the economy and reduce pollution, and all but neglected the occupational safety side of things.

“If extracted safely, [natural gas] is the bridge fuel that can power our economy with less of the carbon pollution that causes climate change,” the president said – the only part of his 65-minute annual address related to occupational safety.

Granted, the State of the Union is not the forum for going into great detail. It’s a means to outline a president’s legislative agenda – exactly what Obama did.

But to give only a passing mention to the potential consequences of dangerous work is disappointing. As production has increased in the oil and gas industry, so have worker deaths. Failing to more thoroughly address occupational safety in this or any other industry suggests an agenda more focused on the economy than the safety of the workers driving that economy.

Every year, about 4,500 workers die, and hundreds of thousands more are injured, on the job in the United States. I had hoped the state of safety in this country would play a bigger role in one of the year’s most important political speeches.

The opinions expressed in "On Safety" do not necessarily reflect those of the National Safety Council or affiliated local Chapters.

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