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On Labor Day, Hold CEOs Accountable

This Labor Day, I’ll be thinking about my family.

My great grandfather, an immigrant from eastern Europe who crossed the Atlantic to work in a western Pennsylvania steel mill, died in that mill in 1929 when a piece of industrial equipment came crashing down on him.

His daughter – my grandmother – was less than a year old.

How many millions of families have suffered similar tragedies? The deadly nature of work in the “Steel Valley” is well documented. Local histories and literary classics such as Blood on the Forge and Out of This Furnace testify to this bloody past.

Clearly, we’ve come a long way since 1929, most significantly with the formation of the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) in 1971.

Nevertheless, tragic workplace deaths occur in America almost every day. Scroll through OSHA’s 2014 document recording “FY14 Fatalities and Catastrophes to Date” (PDF), and you’ll begin to get a sense of the lives lost each day that may have been prevented.

Appallingly, CEOs have no affirmative duty to ensure that all serious and dangerous workplace risks are disclosed to workers.

This must change.

To strengthen workplace safety in honor of Labor Day, join Public Citizen in supporting the Hide No Harm Act (S. 2615).

The Hide No Harm Act would require corporate executives to disclose serious and dangerous workplace risks to workers and serious and dangerous product risks to consumers, and corporate bosses caught suppressing life-saving information will face up to five years behind bars.

It is always one’s moral duty to speak up when doing so could save lives. But, time and time again, executives who weigh the impact of bad publicity and lost profits against honesty about risks have demonstrated they can’t be trusted.

Tough penalties will encourage those corporate executives who might otherwise put profits before public safety to speak out, saving lives and preventing future tragedies.

Our history is full of industries sacrificing workers to corporate greed.

Let’s put that past behind us.

Rick Claypool is the online director for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division.

Urge your senators to co-sponsor the Hide No Harm Act.