OSHA was “shocked and horrified” to learn of quality control workers at bullet-proof vest manufacturers who were taking hundreds of bullets in a shift with nothing to protect their ears from the loud blast of the gunfire.
“We saw many pictures where management is wearing ear protection as they fire bullets into the vest of an employee with no ear protection,” said OSHA case worker KC Swenson. “The obliviousness of management for the basic safety requirements of their workers is appalling.”
Women Have Been Asking For Protection for Years
85% of Test Vest Workers are Women
Women comprise 85% of the testing market for bullet-proof vests, according to a government study from 2016. Female workers began calling OSHA in 2008 about safety concerns. In 2011, Mr. Swenson was assigned to the case, and “that’s really when things started happening for us,” said Camille Memorice, the head of Women for Equal Ear Protection.
“No protection, no shooting” – KC Swenson, OSHA
“Mr. Swenson would say, ‘No protection, no shooting’,” said one female worker who spent a lot of time with Swenson. Despite the 325 hours Mr. Swenson logged in meetings with workers between 2011 and 2018, he was unable to get earplugs approved, and the case remained open for seven years.
“Hey, you think it’s easy getting earplugs approved for these workers? You have no idea what I had to go through,” Mr. Swenson said when we called him to ask about why it took so seven years to close the case.
We reviewed the case log through a Freedom of Information Act request, and found literally thousands of hours logged with cryptic abbreviations. We did verify Mr. Swenson’s meetings with the women, most of which were after work or on weekends due to “workers being more available during social hours.”
OSHA: “Male Managers Repeatedly Shot Women With No Protection”
“I found a disturbing pattern of male managers shooting women over and over again with no protection,” Mr. Swenson said.
When we asked female workers about Mr. Swenson’s work with OSHA, despite knowing little English, all of them were said Mr. Swenson made sure they always used protection.
“You want to shoot at me, then protection yes,” said 31 year old worker Marieta Venuelo. “No more shoot no protect,” Ms. Venuelo said wagging a finger.