Death at Work is an undergraduate course, taught ever other spring (odd years). It is an elective course designed to introduce undergraduate students to public health concepts relevant to the field of occupational health and safety. Through a case-study approach, students will understand critical health and safety risk factors that have resulted in injuries and illnesses throughout working populations.
Students will understand their rights, and the rights of workers they may serve, to a safe and healthful workplace and develop an understanding of relevant risk factors (physical, economic, social) among several working environments. In the first half of the class, we work through a case study and learn about the protections that should have been in place to have prevented tragic outcomes at a workplace. In the second half of the semester, armed with basic understanding of organizations and principles to protect workers, students work through their own case studies in teams.
Students are led through frameworks that ask them to consider all the contributions to the adverse outcome in the cases we study, and they will present a case, prepare a policy memo requesting help from experts who can protect workers similar to those that experienced the tragedies investigated. They also develop tools to educate workers to improve the knowledge of workers, who might be unaware of hazards similar to those in the tragedy they are investigating.
Currently, we focus on the events at the Imperial Food Factory, using the book The Hamlet Fire: A Tragic Story of Cheap Food, Cheap Government, and Cheap Lives, to guide us at the start of the semester. The second half of the term, we review cases of combustible dust explosions, mining disasters, runaway chemical reactions, chemical explosions, and structural failures, using historical cases in both the US and abroad. Enrollment is capped at 50.