Who are “essential” workers?
Those who provide “services and functions … considered essential to preserving life, health and basic societal functioning. These include, but are not limited to, the functions performed by first responders, health care workers, critical infrastructure workers (e.g., hydro and natural gas), and workers who are essential to supply critical goods such as food and medicines. Workers who deliver essential services and functions should continue to do their jobs provided they have no symptoms of COVID-19 disease. Employers of these workers should take all possible steps to protect their health and safety by implementing practices and procedures recommended by public health authorities and providing appropriate protective equipment and products. Further, workers who can perform their tasks remotely should do so.”
Pam, your host, is interjecting here. I am Mom to Mackenzie and Jacob. Mac and Jake do industrial work, and I grew up in the heart of the industrial north. I’m well familiar with the kinds of injuries and long-term health consequences of working in these occupations. I assure you not all of these health effects are reported in statistical information. It’s not uncommon to push past pain to keep working, to go have a smoke when one has a close call. And I’m not saying these workers are reckless, most take their lives and those of their co-workers very seriously. I’m just describing something of the nature of the work. No measures will completely expunge the risks.
Some are not sympathetic to these risks, claiming industrial workers, like “mouth-breathing rig-pigs,” make the big bucks and so get whatever comes to them. I’m unsympathetic to these shallow characterisations.
Some do make good money. Some don’t. Some, particularly older men, are subject to the volatile job market and are not liable to benefit from whatever retraining might be offered. Someone in his early 60s who’s only worked a particular industrial job is quite vulnerable, and often has kids in college he’s trying to give a leg up.
A lot of industrial jobs are remote. People have to travel to get to them. Starting an entry level job in these industries can be particularly taxing. I’ve anonymously purchased work gloves for someone I heard tell was suffering frost bite because he had to choose between gas for his car to get to his job and the winter gear he needed to do it. People who live in industrial communities are aware of these realities, and often pull ranks to support each other. The communities’ defensiveness against critics in the broader population — who expect, demand, and depend on — their labour, is understandable. Yes, depend-on; hence, essential workers.
One might pause to think about: what vaccine syringes are made of; how they are packaged and in which materials; the facilities where they are developed and manufactured — who built these facilities and with which materials; how vaccines are stored and in what they are stored, built by whom and with which materials; how they are distributed; and so on. The tendrils are ceaseless.
Anyway, as a mother of sons who are industrial workers I’ve lost more than a few night’s sleep. Such as when Mac spent an overnight in hospital from chemical smoke inhalation, and Jake had a few seizures due to heavy metal toxicity. I look at my parents whose bodies show the wear of industrial work, and at my sons who won’t come away unscarred. And I’m sitting here telling you about them, typing with fingers deformed from osteoarthritis that I acquired by manual labour in my earlier life. My once-calloused hands are now nerd-smooth.
Anyway. Back to Mac’s ‘toon.
Jake adds to the hazards Mac listed: radiation (pipeline x-rays); frostbite; working so far out that even Stars (paramedic) helicopters won’t come get you; crush injuries; explosions; etc. …
And Jake aptly suggests The Chemical Worker’s Song (Ron Angel) to capture the risks associated with industrial work — including manufacturing, construction, and transportation. (It’s also worth a quick scroll through the comments following the video.) :
(Posted on You Tube by Kathleg, approx 2011)