The Clearwater Paper Corp. in Lewistown, Idaho chose the king cobra to symbolize its workplace safety program. A cobra. One of the deadliest snakes on the planet.
Every day on his way to and from work at Clearwater, John Bergen III drove past a billboard in the company parking lot sporting a picture of a king cobra and the explanation that it represented the company’s behavior-based safety program – Changing Our Behavior Reduces Accidents – COBRA.
Bergen, a devoted father, a gifted artist and a conscientious worker who urged everyone to observe safety rules, died last summer after inadvertently stepping through a gaping opening in the floor of the Clearwater Paper mill.
Behavior-based workplace safety programs like COBRA are attempts by corporations to shirk responsibility to eliminate hazards by blaming workers instead. When workers die, behavior-based programs disrespect the deceased by blaming them for their own deaths. These safety programs say to Bergen’s young son, “Your daddy’s dead because he wasn’t careful enough.”
These programs are cruel. They don’t work. And they must stop. This Workers Memorial Day, a day on which we honor those killed in the workplace and recommit ourselves to ending the slaughter, workers and their families across America demand an end to “blame the worker” safety programs.
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