Mar 5, 2001
A steam turbine flew apart February 24 in the Power House of Ford's Rouge complex in Dearborn, Michigan, throwing shrapnel around the area. A 51-year-old man was killed, another injured. The turbine had been undergoing "routine maintenance."
This is only the latest in a series of deadly "accidents" at the Rouge. It was just over two years ago when a boiler, also undergoing "routine maintenance," exploded in the same Power House, killing six workers, and injuring 14 others, many severely.
At the time of that accident, Ford hurried to close off any inquiry by offering to pay a multimillion dollar fine, the largest ever paid in an industrial accident, and by giving large, immediate settlements to the workers or their families. It also indicated that the Power House would be immediately prepared for shut down.
What Ford got in return for its lies and its blood money was the assurance that no one would be prosecuted, nor would Ford itself really be held accountable.
Certainly, Ford could have been prosecuted, as could its executives going up to the very top. The record concerning the first Power House disaster was very clear: Ford, intending to build a new Power House, had severely cut back on maintenance in the old one. It had not installed the safety equipment which the state had ordered it to do. In fact, it had disabled the safety device which would have prevented the explosion, since the safety device slowed down production.
Nonetheless, the State of Michigan safety department signed off on this arrangement, as did the Dearborn Fire Department, as did the union. They were ready to take at face value Ford's assurances that it would henceforth "respect safety."
Since that time, Ford has compiled quite a record "respecting safety" at the Rouge: three other fatal "accidents"; two other major explosions in the steel area; a fire in a new paint plant; a construction accident at the new Power House where one worker died; innumerable other smaller fires and explosions; two total electricity failures, leaving workers in the dark in the midst of dangerous machinery; innumerable emissions of toxic fumes, including one which killed several workers. And this doesn't take into account the number of workers who have died young, including a recent series in the paint plant. Its fumes certainly don't contribute to the good health of anyone working there.
These latest deaths are not "accidents" in any sense of the word. "Accidents" may happen one time, but not regularly as they do at Ford. These so called "accidents" are the result of conscious decisions: Ford systematically puts profits first, at the expense of the workers' lives, health and safety.
Last Saturday, a Ford spokesman informed the press that, despite the accident, "no production was lost; there was no shutdown." Behind those innocuous words stands this horrible reality: a man is killed, but production goes on –even with the body still laying there. That says it all.