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Does Somebody Famous Have to Die?

Posted By Greg Smith, Thursday, August 12, 2010
Updated: Saturday, February 09, 2013

Tony Ballew, 44, father of Amanda and Amy, husband to Alice, died when he was working on an extrusion machine at an industrial packaging plant, February 19, 2010, in Wilson, North Carolina.

Tony was well-known in his community and well-loved by his family and friends. Did you know Tony? The local news in Wilson, North Carolina, reported the incident and Tony’s passing and that the incident was "under investigation.” Will the local news even follow up? After several attempts to get information from the reporter for the local Wilson paper, it seems that this story ranks well below car accidents and the local strawberry crop news.

The problem is that Tony was not "famous.” Tony was not a person "of interest” to the press. Tony was just like many of us — working hard to support his family, attending church, helping friends in need.

Remember when Princess Diana was killed in a car accident? Of course you do. Remember when Buddy Holly died in an airplane crash, when John Wayne died of cancer? Probably.

Do you remember the movie starring George Clooney about the workers killed in the chicken plant fire? How about the famous film where Sean Penn was electrocuted by a piece of textile machinery? No? Neither do I, because they were never made. It’s just not sexy enough, not anything sensational that Hollywood and the press hunger for. Let’s face it, somebody like George Clooney isn’t ever going to make a movie about anybody dying in the workplace, much less be there himself.

But just let there be an exemption from inspections of electrical safety for workplace equipment, and people from the North Carolina Catawba County Economic Development Council and Jeff Edge of the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce spread the word with glee, proclaiming loudly that there’s no need to protect our citizens from "industrial machinery.”

Here’s the latest: Industrial machinery coming in from China.

Photo 1. The incoming supply and equipment ground are hand twisted and secured to a bolt without a terminal.

Photo 2. The motor wiring is terminated on the housing with exposure to human access, no wiring compartment.

Photo 3. The wire splice is hand twisted and covered with electrical tape.

Photo 4. Homemade 3-phase connections

Photo 5. Pretty sure these connections were not anticipated by the component manufacturer

Photo 6. The plastic housing was "altered” to fit the conductors to the receptacle.

Photo 7. The conductors for the external receptacles are fed through the sharp edges of the holes.

Ernie Pearson, attorney for ZF Lemforder, took great pride in his attempts to discredit and defeat our electrical safety experts. He referred to our electrical safety experts as "fanatics,” ignoring the fact that the proceedings took many people away from their critical jobs in electrical safety. We won the fight in Superior Court, where the judge actually understood the issues, but lost in the North Carolina Legislature, where the politicians didn’t even care to understand the issues. Special interest and false propaganda were expertly wielded.

The really tragic part of this story is that Tony’s death may have been caused by greed, political corruption and ignorance. While hush money and favors are traded in back rooms, our citizens pay the price. Most likely, nobody famous is going to stand up for this cause.

Read more by Greg Smith

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