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The number of workers dying on the job this year will reach almost 6,000. More than two million will be seriously injured. Another 50,000 or more will die from cancer, lung and heart ailments and other occupational diseases caused by exposure to toxic substances.

The financial toll will also be high: more than $3 billion in health care expenses and other costs to employers and workers, such as lost wages and production.

One company has shown that it can try to reduce the risk of worker injury to zero. Kudos to ITT where it’s 44,000 employees are close to that goal. All employers should read how ITT is achieving this wonderful result and try to copy what they are doing.

The Occupational Safety and Health Act, the two related acts that cover mine safety and the agencies that administer the laws, need to be fixed. The agencies are currently run by political appointees of President Bush, many of them former executives from the industries they’re supposed to regulate. They have blocked, withdrawn or weakened dozens of safety rules and stopped development of others recommended by safety and health experts. They’ve discontinued safety education and training programs and worked with Bush and Republican leaders in Congress to cut their own budgets by millions of dollars.

OSHA blocked a proposed rule that would require employers to provide free protective equipment such as goggles, hard hats and gloves that thousands of low-wage workers can’t afford.

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