Workplace Dangers Prevalent
In March 2011, my 21-year-old daughter, Cheryl Marie Bauer, was involved in a workplace accident that claimed her life. She was a great kid — a hardworking honors student who was generous to a fault. 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 have already given out two scholarships. One of the ways we raise 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.