Publication exhibits poor judgment in attack on industry

By |  August 31, 2015

trespassingsignPeople trespass into abandoned quarries every now and then. Occasionally, trespassers get injured or killed because of the risks they take.

Yet, the property owners are to blame.

At least that’s the logic of the opinion staff at The Express-Times of Lehigh Valley, Pa. The Express-Times published an editorial Aug. 25 in reaction to 11 drowning deaths that occurred in its coverage area between May 24 and Aug. 18.

The editorial becomes an attack on the aggregates industry, calling quarries “relics of the industrial age” and for quarry owners “to provide security patrols, rather than posting signs and expecting police to do the rest.”

The editorial is recklessly constructed. The Express-Times makes quarry owners the scapegoats despite acknowledging that quarry trespassers “routinely” cut through fences to gain access to properties.

A fence around a quarry should serve as an inherent warning to keep out. A sign provides that takeaway more directly.

Once people put wire cutters to a fence – or hop it – and ignore warning signage, they’re breaking the law and should be held responsible for their actions.

The Express-Times makes this point within its editorial, writing “we can’t stop everyone from risking death.” That’s a logical statement at least. But the publication calls out the wrong people in citing property owners as not doing enough to minimize the risks trespassers take.

The attack on quarry owners is particularly irresponsible considering reporting the publication did for an Aug. 19 article that summarizes the 11 drownings in its coverage area this summer. Based on details provided in the article, two of the 11 are quarry related. The other deaths happened along roadways, in parks and in other areas.

Based on the editorial, you’d think the majority of incidents occurred at quarries.

Another report The Express-Times published this summer accentuates the mark the publication misses in its editorial. The report, from July 30, gets at a real issue surrounding the area’s recent drownings. The report reveals that at least 31 people died in the last five years in accidents in a 200-mile Delaware River stretch between New Jersey and Pennsylvania. As the publication writes: “The one striking commonality – not one of those victims was wearing a personal flotation device, or life jacket, when they died.”

If The Express-Times wants to write an editorial related to drownings, how about one that serves as a call to action to wear safety equipment while swimming? Or one that simply discourages people from trespassing?

How about taking a stance for upping the trespassing penalty rather than going after quarry owners who are following the law?

At least a number of The Express-Times’ readers called the opinion staff out for their editorial. As one reader responds: “At some point, where is personal responsibility? … People will always take risks despite all efforts to the contrary. It is human nature.”

Learn more about how quarry owners and operators should handle trespassers from Pit & Quarry safety and law columnist Michael T. Heenan.

Photo: JeepersMedia / photo on flickr

Kevin Yanik

About the Author:

Kevin Yanik is the editor-in-chief of Pit & Quarry magazine. Yanik can be reached at 216-706-3724 or kyanik@northcoastmedia.net.

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