17 February 2009

"White death"

Morte Bianca

This is the phrase Italians use for work related deaths and there has been much in the newspapers lately about problems with work place safety, particularly related to the construction business. I saw one article that stated Italy has the highest rate of work related injuries and deaths for all of Europe. I am not overly surprised based on some of the construction work sites I have seen. Multiple story houses and other buildings are the norm and I rarely see safety equipment that would be standard issue in the US in use here. If there is an Italian equivalent of OSHA they appear to be rather lax in enforcement.

I also think there may be another factor related to this problem, and as with many things in Italy it is related to eating. In the summer months it is not uncommon to see construction workers enjoying un panino con una birra, sandwich and a beer, for a midmorning snack.

We have learned that some of the best places to enjoy a hearty lunch for a good price are those restaurants who attract a crowd of construction workers for lunch. The food is always good and usually involves a three course meal for a fixed price. The problem is these meals include wine; I have frequently seen workers consume a half liter of wine with their meal and follow that up with a digestivo after their caffĂ©. After a lunch like that I know I wouldn’t want to be climbing any heights or operating heavy machinery.

Much has been said in the press recently about addressing morte bianca but only time will tell if real action will follow.

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