Blogging is opinionated journalism – following the story because you care about it and want others to take note of the issues.
In the arena of workplace safety and health, the premier blog (it may be the only one, too) is Confined Space, the work of former AFSCME health and safety director Jordan Barab. It has just finished its third year in publication, and it won this year’s Sandy Koufax Award as the Best Single Issue blog from Wampum (for those that don’t know, Koufax was a “lefty” pitcher for the Brooklyn and the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Wampum recognizes left-leaning blogs).
Subtitled “News and Commentary on Workplace Health & Safety, Labor and Politics,” Confined Space pulls no punches when it comes to the interface of safety and politics in the U.S. It is unrelenting in its criticism of OSHA under the Bush Administration (Barab worked there for the last three Clinton years), and it praises state and local officials who bring criminal charges against derelict employers. It publishes the Weekly Toll – an individual accounting of as many workplace fatalities as it can document.
As is typical of blogs, Confined Space does not attempt to present all sides of any issue. Rather, it absolutizes the importance of ending workplace injuries and fatalities and dissects the efforts – or lack thereof – of others from that point of view, letting the chips fall where they may. Readers form their own judgments in reaction to the clear and definite perspective offered by Barab.
Barab has a day job, so Confined Space is an after-hours labor of love. He takes inspiration from others who have fought the “good fight,” despite seemingly insurmountable obstacles. One of his heroes is I.F. Stone, a 1950s journalist who wrote:
The only kinds of fights worth fighting are those you are going to lose, because somebody has to fight them and lose and lose and lose until, someday, somebody who believes as you do wins.
In order for somebody to win an important, major fight 100 years hence, a lot of other people have got to be willing – for the sheer fun and joy of it – to go right ahead and fight, knowing you’re going to lose. You mustn’t feel like a martyr. You’ve got to enjoy it.
There’s no question but that the fight for jobsite health and safety is an uphill battle. Barab clearly enjoys the fight, and he makes the most of it. The topics are intense, the writing is good and the perspective is sharply critical. It’s good reading for anyone who wants to end the carnage – 6,000 fatalities a year – in American workplaces.