There have numerous instances of major accidents and terrible diseases infecting workers due to the neglect of corporations. They say that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, but take a moment to consider the staggering increased medical and health care costs that have resulted from several industries like railroads not heeding simple industrial safety steps. For another example, the instances of lung cancer in railroad workers exposed to diesel exhaust fumes have increased dramatically, and it appears many railroad companies were aware of the health problems from diesel fumes by the 1950's, but did not take any decisive action to correct reduce the fumes.
But my focus here is on the toxic dust of asbestos fibers, see one of my video discussions below:
One striking example which crystallizes the importance of curtailing neglect and initiating solutions is the toxic legacy of asbestos exposure in the work place. Once again, the railroad industry exemplifies neglect rather than action.
These railroad corporations knew about the risk asbestos posed to their employees. In fact, back in the 1930s, doctors recommended measures to help control the level of toxic dust (i.e. asbestos) in the workplace and provide annual chest x-rays to railroad workers. However, these types of actions weren't initiated for decades, and probably weren't even instituted until a tidal wave of lawsuits was brought against the railroad companies on behalf of the infected workers.
As I wrote in a previous article, the railroad companies essentially played Russian roulette with their employees, and they've lost big time. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been paid out by railroad corporations to their employees who've had their lives ruined by exposure to asbestos and millions will probably continue to be paid out as more cases come to light. But, also consider the increased health care costs for many of these terrible cancers. Cancers that would not have occurred by simply controlling asbestos dust, or by substituting out asbestos for other insulation as early as the 1950's or 1960's.
Surely, the amount of money it would have cost the railroad corporations such as CSX, Norfolk Southern, Conrail, and others to invest in preventative tests and workplace environment controls is microscopic compared to the amount of money they've paid out in settlements and verdicts.
What the railroad companies did, and did not do, is a prime example of why neglecting a problem in the hopes it'll never be brought to light is a bad business policy. Surprisingly, numerous corporations continue to operate with a wanton disregard to workplace safety, but, if history has taught us anything, this neglect will come back to haunt a business in the end. It always does.