IATSE Local 33 Stagehand Died at Gibson Amphitheater:
Jose Lucero was only 22 years old. I didn't know him, as I left IATSE Local 33 before he got in. But when I heard he had fallen to his death from the "ozone" in the grid at the Gibson Amphitheater, formerly the Universal Amphitheater, I immediately remembered my great fear the one time I had to go out on one of those steel beams. I never said anything to anyone I worked with, because I really needed the work at the time, but it scared the hell out of me. Back then, we never wore safety harnesses hooked to fall-arresters, like you're supposed to now (and the investigation is underway to determine if Jose was wearing his), and it was scary as shit to go out on those beams. After that one time, I avoided rigging because I could handle working in grids from catwalks with rails, or working in grids with "ribbon" floors (meaning small gaps between steel beams that you could maybe get your foot stuck in but not fall through), but I just couldn't overcome my fear of heights when I was on one of those beams with nothing but air and floor on either side of me.
But there are guys I've worked with who, like Mohawk Indians on the high steel of sky-scrapers, would just saunter right out on those beams, like they were walking down the sidewalk. Of all the different specialist stagehands I worked with, I always had a huge respect for the riggers. They take big chances to make slightly more money than the guys on the floor, and they do it with gusto.
To put this incident in context, I was shocked to learn yesterday that more people died on the job in the US in 2009 than the total amount of Americans who died in the entire Iraq war:
...4,551 people killed on the job in America in 2009, carnage that eclipsed the total number of U.S. fatalities in the nine-year Iraq war. Combine the victims of traumatic injuries with the estimated 50,000 people who die annually of work-related diseases and it’s as if a fully loaded Boeing 737-700 crashed every day. Yet the typical fine for a worker death is about $7,900.
If you'd really like to get an idea of what a huge problem workplace safety is in this country, check out the AFL-CIO's Death on the Job Report.
In 2010, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 4,690 workers were killed on the job—an average of 13 workers every day—and an estimated 50,000 died from occupational diseases. Workers suffer an additional 7.6 million to 11.4 million job injuries and illnesses each year. The cost of job injuries and illnesses is enormous—estimated at $250 billion to $300 billion a year.
We have a much higher worker fatality rate than other industrialized nations, and Republicans would like to cut OSHA and other workplace safety programs. Insanity. It reminds me of a poster we had back at Arkansas Explosives Inc, where I occasionally worked when I was in college: "OSHA is not a small town in Kansas." I guess if the GOP gets their way, it would be.