3 Movies About Unsafe Workplaces
There’s nothing entertaining about unsafe workplaces. In 2014, 4,679 workers were killed on the job, which worked out to an average of nearly 90 deaths per week or about 13 worker deaths every day. Another 3 million workers suffered non-fatal work-related illnesses and injuries that same year. However, many excellent films have been made over the years dealing with the subject of dangerous workplaces, sometimes even based on true events. While workplace injuries and fatalities are not entertaining, these movies do serve a great purpose of reminding us all how important workplace safety is.
Silkwood is one of the best movies out there that deals with safety issues in the workplace. Meryl Streep was nominated for an Oscar for her portrayal of Karen Silkwood, a woman who made plutonium fuel rods at the Kerr-McGee Cimarron Fuel Fabrication Site in Oklahoma. When the plant got behind schedule on a major project, all plant employees were putting in long hours to catch up and several events happened that led Karen to believe her employer was falsifying safety records and cutting corners on safety measures, putting the safety of the Kerr-McGee employees, and of the general public, on the line. She became a vocal advocate for safer working conditions and just as she was on the verge of exposing her employer’s practices in the New York Times, she died in a mysterious car accident at the age of 28.
The movie Silkwood was based on true events. At the time of her death, Silkwood was found to have plutonium contamination in her system as a result of working at the plant. Silkwood’s father and children filed a lawsuit against Kerr-McGee, which was eventually settled for $1.38 million.
Norma Rae (1979)
In one of her most famous roles, Sally Field stars as Norma Rae, an employee of an Alabama textile factory. The working conditions in the factory are harsh and many of her co-workers suffer health problems as a result, worrying Norma. When she hears a speech given by a union organizer from New York, she’s inspired to try protecting herself and her co-workers by unionizing her factory, despite all the risks she personally faced in doing so.
Norma Rae is another movie inspired by a true story. In this case, it was based on Crystal Lee Sutton, a textile factory worker in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina.
Unsafe workplaces have been a popular subject in movies for a very long time now. The silent classic Metropolis is set in a futuristic society where the wealthy live above ground in a lavish city while lower-classes toil away underground in a dangerous factory that fuels the city above ground. When the son of one of the most important men in the city above ground sees a woman with some children from underground, he follows them back down and is horrified to see how dangerous the factory underground is. He trades places with a factory worker to experience first-hand what it’s like to work there. Along with the woman he saw earlier, they work together to unify the two worlds.