This week: orchard health & safety, professional overwork, bathroom break, otters, emus, and goats
Whack-a-gopher just doesn’t sound right
An investigation by the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries found that an orchard owner had its employees repeatedly place pellets of a highly toxic pesticide by hand into gopher holes, then add water to activate the poison — without giving workers the required training or even proper respirators. The pesticide in question is highly restricted on account of the fact that it produces a poisonous gas that is supposed to kill gophers and can kill humans. And the orchardist in question had previously been fined barely more than a year ago for similar issues with improper respirators.
So what happens to an employer who has been caught repeatedly exposing workers to potentially deadly conditions? In this case, they were fined just $100,000. With penalties this thin for offenses this grave, more violations seem sure to pop up after this one gets whacked down.
When the marginal cost of your time approaches zero…
It’s not quite clear how statisticians measure the productivity of a so-called professional worker — do they look how many bases are touched and how many loops are closed per hour? run negative correlations with Facebook browsing time? count emails cc-ed per minute? — but the data actually suggests that more work hours means less productivity. In fact, while 94% of “professional” workers log more than 50 hours a week, cognitive function seems to decline as work hours increase. Even ramping all the way up to 60 hours instead of 40 produces only a brief boost in output, and after 8 weeks of 60 hours, you will have produced less than if you just worked 40 the whole time.
Meanwhile 6 million other workers can only get part time hours but want to work full-time.
When you gotta bro, you gotta bro
Much has been written about gender imbalance the world of tech, but sometimes it takes an anecdote to really drive things home. Here goes: turns out that Amazon’s South Lake Union office buildings are so thick with men that employees have repeatedly filed formal complaints charging that the bathroom access situation there is unlawful. An investigation found that on one floor of one building, there were 60 men, and just 3 women, leading the men to complain that they “cannot schedule a need to use the restroom in a timely manner”.
In response to all this, the company went back and built additional bathrooms on every floor of at least one building. It’s unclear if they’ve considered looking at hiring more women.
They shall not pass
An asthmatic sea otter named Mishka has been taught to use an inhaler by a trainer at the Seattle Aquarium after her breathing was affected by the Eastern Washington wildfires. Asthma is a serious health problem which intersects with poverty, housing quality, workplace safety, and environmental justice; on the other hand, asthmatic otters must look super cute with those little inhalers and adorable noses.
An Emu has evaded capture for several days of wandering through a small town in New Hampshire, despite a well-conceived menu of strategies to capture it which involve putting “jingly, jangly things” on a rope, and tempting it to enter a garage by leaving the garage door open. Two other area Emus which escaped back in 2007 were eventually caught with a well-timed beak grab, and then fed grapes.
Highly aggressive mountain goats forced the closure of an Idaho trail after reportedly attempting to bite, head-butt, or charge at hikers, some of whom were allowing the animals to “lick their sweaty skin.” As we go to publication, the stand-off continues and the goats have yet to issue their demands.