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Workplace dangers prevalent

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The high school/college kid with the part-time job is such a time-honored tradition in our country, it hardly occurs to us that danger could be imminent. We as parents just send them off blithely, assuming all will be well. I never thought my daughter’s part-time gig at a neighborhood pizza joint would be her undoing.

The Friday of her accident, the restaurant had just received a beer delivery, and Cheryl was loading cases of beer on something I’ll call a “dumbwaiter/material lift,” basically a cage hanging from a chain
operated by an electric overhead hoist. The cage ran up and down between
floors on four angled guide rails. Cheryl was on the first floor and in
the process of bringing the cases down to the basement.

At
some point, the hoist apparently failed catastrophically; the cage came
flying down, taking Cheryl with it. She was dragged into the shaft
between the cage and the wall, causing devastating internal injuries.

She died on a Monday, after doctors told us that they could do no more for her. Just like that, my beautiful daughter was gone.

In this case, silence proved deadly.

Photos
of the accident scene show the lift to be a rusty, rickety, homespun
contraption. Out of all the people that encountered this piece of
machinery, all it would’ve taken is one person to say, “Hey, this thing
looks dangerous, it shouldn’t be used,” or, “It should be checked out
before being used.”

That’s
all it would’ve taken to save a life. And that’s exactly what I’m doing
now, as I slowly emerge from my haze of shock and disbelief. I’m
speaking up and breaking the silence and complacency to prevent future
situations like this. It’s my duty to my daughter, and society at large.

My message to workers and employers is: Be aware, be careful, be cautious!

Don’t be naïve about
workplace danger. I think it never occurred to Cheryl that something
like this could happen, and I, as her mom, never warned her.

My
next message is: Be vocal, speak up, communicate! Know what to do when
you believe you’re being exposed to dangerous conditions at work.

In the end, if you have to quit, so be it. No job is worth losing your life over.

My
family and I are still dumbfounded. We have, however, done a few
things. We have hired a lawyer, who has hired a mechanical engineer to
investigate the accident further. We also have started a small
scholarship fund in Cheryl’s name (cherylbauerscholarship. org) and hope
to give out our first scholarship next fall. One of the ways we plan on
raising funds is by showing Cheryl’s recently restored 1974 Chevy Nova
at car shows throughout the state, and talking to people about her.

Finally,
we are going to the media with her story in order to raise awareness in
young workers about workplace safety, and also to publicize her
scholarship fund.

—Niki Bauer
Oklahoma City

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Gazette provides an open forum for the discussion of all points of view
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