If you think that working for the U.S. Census Bureau is safe, think again. As we have previously reported, man’s best friend is census listers’ worst enemy. When we previously pressed the folks at the Census Bureau’s Washington HQ for worker safety data, they referred us to look at OSHA’s stats page. However, it is unlikely that this data is accurate because of the sheer number of Census Bureau employees scattered throughout America and the fact that the data for the recent operations will not be tabulated for some time.
Here’s an excerpt from an article that appeared in the Sarasota Herald Tribune detailing a recent vicious attack on census worker:
The most recent attack occurred April 15, as David Fraser, 52, approached the front of the home while gathering data for the U.S. Census.
Fraser’s job for the Census Bureau involves a computer and GPS system, and requires him to go to homes, line up a GPS and push a button that registers that house.
Fraser said he was about 5 feet from the door of the house’s lanai when he heard a “low growling.” Then, he says, in a flash the dog “lurches and succeeded to open the front door” and grab and bit his wrist.
The dog took off and Fraser saw he was bleeding; he ended up at Sarasota Memorial Hospital for a tetanus shot and antibiotics.
Fraser said that under normal circumstances, in light of the dog-warning signs, he might have stayed farther back from the lanai door. But that day, his supervisors had given Census workers “a quality control talk.” Workers were “failing quality controls” and were told they needed to get to within 5 feet of structures before registering them.
Officials with the U.S. Census Bureau have declined to comment on the episode.
If you think this is a first time occurrence, think again. During the 2000 headcount, 71-year old Census Bureau employee Dorothy Stewart was killed by a pack of 18 dogs in Indiana. Here’s an excerpt from an article about Stewart’s tragic death from dogbitelaw.com:
June 10, 2000, Brown County, Indiana. Dorothy Stewart, a worker for the US Census, was attacked and killed by a pack of (more than 18) dogs while collecting census data in Indiana. Her family filed a wrongful death suit and eventually settled with the defendants’ insurance company for the limit of the policy.
Charges of criminal recklessness were filed against the dog owners, because as they had maintained the pack for over 10 years, and numerous other people had run-ins, albeit not fatal, with the dogs. This was the only charge apparently available to the prosecutor due to a loophole in Indiana law. In that state, it is a felony if your dog leaves your property and attacks someone, but not a crime at all if the attack happens on your property. An attempt to change the law last year failed; the bill was watered down — first it would only protect government employees, then only between the hours of 8 and 5, and finally the house and senate couldn’t reconcile their bills and the entire effort to change the law sputtered to a halt.
The prosecutor entered into a plea agreement (dropping drug charges) and the defendants pled guilty. On July 6, 2001, they received the maximum sentence available under the agreement, which was 1.5 years in jail for the wife, and 3 years in jail for the husband.