Marie Sanderson was 51. She was married, and had one son.
Aimee Cothran was 43. She had a committed partner, one son, one daughter, and one granddaughter.
Aimee and Marie worked in the entertainment industry, behind the scenes. In fact, further behind the scenes than most: they made the products that many of us use. Just as we make the the shows work, they made some of the products we use to make those shows work.
Every year for the past four years, there has been a fire and/or an explosion at Ultratec’s facility in Owens Cross Roads, Alabama. In fact there has been a reported fire and/or explosion there in every year this decade except 2011.
Seven days ago, on Friday, February 6, 2015, Ultratec’s facility in Owens Cross Roads, Alabama had another explosion, just four months after the previous one. You may not have known this, or had heard only a brief mention of it. Despite the history of this facility, there has been little outcry in the industry publications about it.
Seven days ago, the families of two women, two mothers, two daughters, two fellow entertainment professionals were told that they would not be coming home from work. A workplace that had a long-time history of problems, including a death from an explosion in 1999. A workplace that had a recent history of similar problems. A reasonable person would think that at the very least, the managing company would have taken notice of the continuous fires, explosions, and injuries that occurred nearly every year since 2010.
Marie Sanderson and Aimee Cothran were killed while working in the entertainment industry. The dangers of their work fully recognizable, the reminders of those dangers fresh and recent, and their deaths (and the injuries to four others) fully preventable.
“There is no excuse for this employer’s indifference to safety precautions.” That was OSHA talking about the Owens Cross Roads facility in September 2000. Ultratec’s statement from last Friday claims “Safety is our first priority.” But the repeated problems at this facility show that, fifteen years and an ownership change later, OSHA’s 2000 statement appears to still be true.
No one should die helping to entertain others. No show is that important. And no company with such a blatant and repeated disregard for employee safety will ever get my money again.