When a worker is injured or has a fatal workplace accident, state and federal authorities look at multiple criteria to determine the cause of the incident and whether the employer is responsible for any of the circumstances that led to it.
A recent incident involving a Pennsylvania-based company is an example of the type of investigation that will be undertaken by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
The company employed the worker that died for 16 years, so a first assumption by the agency might be that the incident was not likely to have been the fault of the worker given his years of experience. OSHA then looked to the equipment being used at the facility.
According to the OSHA inspection, the company had failed to implement sufficient protections for its workers. The machinery that contributed to the death of the worker rolls steel for use in the railroad industry.
The equipment involves rotating parts that were not guarded to prevent worker injuries. OSHA also determined that the workers did not receive adequate training on procedures to use with the machinery.
The deficiencies at the plant were found to have been related to the crush injury suffered by the deceased employee, resulting in a proposed fine of nearly $50,000.
As a result of its investigation, OSHA issued seven serious violations against the company. The failure to adequately protect workers from dangerous machinery and the failure to provide adequate training on the equipment are two of the violations found most often during OSHA investigations of manufacturing plants.
Ideally, employers will worry more about the safety of their employees than their bottom line. But unfortunately, this is not true for some companies. Saving a few thousand dollars on safety precautions or equipment maintenance that might prevent industrial accidents may seem like a good economic strategy for an employer until the worst-case scenario happens, as in this instance.
Anyone who has been injured or has lost a loved one as a result of an employer’s failure to provide a safe work environment should seek the advice of an attorney with experience in workers’ compensation and OSHA claims to recover the benefits that may be required.
Source: WKYC, “OSHA wants $49k fine of Cleveland company where a worker died,” Nov. 10, 2014