Category Archives: Worker safety

OSHA Cites a Florida Tower Contractor After Three Fatalities

Today’s post comes from guest author Kit Case, from Causey Wright.

OSHA cited a Florida communication tower contractor after three employees suffered fatal injuries at a Miami worksite.

MIAMI, FL – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited Tower King II Inc. after three employees suffered fatal injuries while attempting to install a new antenna on a communications tower in Miami.

During the investigation, OSHA determined that a gin pole system – a device that attaches to a communications tower to hoist loads – failed, causing the employees to fall. Investigators determined that the employer failed to ensure the capacity of the rigging attachments were adequate to support the forces imposed from hoisting loads. The Texas-based tower contractor was issued one serious citation for exposing employees to fall and struck-by hazards. The company faces $12,934 in proposed penalties, the maximum allowed under law.

“This tragedy underscores the importance of having a qualified individual conduct an analysis before performing construction work on communication towers,” said Condell Eastmond, Fort Lauderdale OSHA Office Director.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education, and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.

OSHA News Release: 03/27/2018   Release Number: 18-0414-ATL

For more information about this incident, see the Miami Herald’s article:

Three men died while working on a TV transmission tower for Channels 7 and 10 in Miami Gardens late Wednesday afternoon when the scaffolding used to reach the top of the tower collapsed.

Image credit: Tower King II logo, towerkingtwo.com.

 

BuzzFeed News: At Tesla’s Factory, Building The Car Of The Future Has Painful And Permanent Consequences For Some Workers

Today’s post comes from guest author Kit Case, from Causey Wright.

Tesla wants to change the world by selling eco-friendly electric vehicles to the masses. But some of the workers laboring to build that dream have been hurt along the way.
FREMONT, CALIFORNIA — Terrill Johnson was installing car trunks at Tesla’s factory in Fremont, California, when he heard the sound that would define his next few years, if not the rest of his life. “It was a big, loud pop,” he said. In one movement, Johnson had blown out his elbow and his shoulder. “Once the pop came, the pain came.”

That was September 2015. Johnson went on leave for his injury, but on workers’ compensation he earned considerably less than the roughly $1,700 he had earned every two weeks while on the job. Now, two surgeries and more than two years later, he’s still waiting for his workers’ compensation case to be resolved, and trying to make ends meet in one of the country’s most expensive metropolitan areas with just the earnings from his workers’ comp check plus Social Security disability payments from the state. He can’t work out or play sports, and when he walks around, he keeps his injured hand in his pocket because otherwise it swings around and causes him pain.

“I can’t even lift no more than 10 pounds with my left arm, and I’m left-handed,” he told BuzzFeed News. “It took a lot from me. The arm is not going to ever get back to where it was, never.” He said he doesn’t know how he’ll make a living in the five years before Social Security kicks in.

Tesla is the largest and highest-profile electric car company in the world. It’s a $57 billion business built on a message of innovation, ambition, and social good. Its cars, the Model 3, Model S, and Model X, retail for between $35,000 and $79,500, and confer on their buyers not just financial status, but also a certain eco-futurist sheen. Tesla’s founder, Elon Musk, is as famous for wanting to colonize Mars as he is for his ambitious production schedule and boundless idealism. Stenciled over the entrance to the company’s Fremont factory are these words: “Our mission: to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.”

But while Tesla may eventually reinvent the automobile, it hasn’t yet reinvented automobile manufacturing. Here in Fremont, at the only nonunion US-owned automotive plant in the country, the people who labored to build the future of transportation have done so by working long hours with lower-than-industry-average pay, according to workers, and higher-than-industry average risk of injury according to a prolabor nonprofit.

In the last year, amid a union drive and a string of negative allegations about its working conditions, Tesla has raised starting hourly rates by $2; today, it says, its production line workers are paid better than any other US autoworkers, and its injury rate is roughly equal to the national average.

But 15 people who worked in Tesla’s factory within the last five years describe it as a backbreaking job that placed workers under tremendous pressure to produce — a result of the company’s ambitious production targets — that they say led, in some cases, to lifelong injuries. Between 2012 and early 2017, 180 Tesla employees applied for compensation for partially or permanently disabling injuries, according to a database obtained via a public records request by BuzzFeed News from the California Department of Industrial Relations (DIR). In interviews, several of these injured employees described doing repetitive tasks with little opportunity to rotate positions — in violation of Tesla’s own stated policy, as well as industry norms. Most of these workers were making around $17 an hour before they were injured; several said they ended up losing their homes afterward, unable to pay their rent.

 
Read the full story and see all of the photos here.
 
Posted on February 4, 2018

 

Photo by BitBoy on Foter.com / CC BY

 

 

 

U.S. DOL and TX Pottery Manufacturer Reach Settlement Following Worker Fatality

Today’s post comes from guest author Kit Case, from Causey Wright.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Marshall Pottery, Inc., have reached a settlement agreement including a penalty of $545,160, after the death of an assistant plant manager.

On April 16, 2017, investigators determined that the manager was servicing a kiln and became trapped inside when it activated. The company was cited for six willful violations and 21 serious violations. Citations were issued following OSHA’s investigation into failures to implement confined space and lockout/tagout programs.

“This company was cited for similar violations in 2008 after another fatality at the plant,” said OSHA Area Director Basil Singh, in Dallas. “Failures to implement lockout/tagout and confined space programs are unacceptable. Employers must use all required safeguards and procedures to prevent the recurrence of similar tragedies.”

The company had 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. Upon receipt of the citations and penalties, the company scheduled an informal conference with the OSHA area director.  At the meeting, OSHA and the company reached a settlement. As part of the settlement, the company also agreed to abate the violations. 

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.

OSHA News Release: 11/28/2017
Contact Names: 

Chauntra Rideaux

Phone Number: 
Contact Name: 

Juan Rodriguez

Phone Number: 
Release Number: 
17-1383-DAL

Workplace Safety De-Regulation Continues

Today’s post comes from guest author Charlie Domer, from The Domer Law Firm.

The con continues.  Many American workers were conned into initially voting for Donald Trump, and that con game continues with the Trump Administration and its views on worker safety.  Campaign promises of benefitting the US worker ring hollow with each and every anti-worker de-regulation push.

Recent reports reveal the administration is removing or delaying OSHA protective regulatory standards on numerous fronts.  (Updated OSHA agenda reflects Trump administration focus on de-regulation).   The administration previously acted against improved employer recordkeeping for workplace injuries and illnesses. Now, the anti-worker protection agenda continues with the administration effectively pulling important items from the regulatory agenda.  

From the above-linked report, some of the important issues “removed” from the OSHA regulatory agenda are: Preventing Backover Injuries and Fatalities; Noise in Construction; Bloodborne Pathogens; and Combustible Dust. 

Failure to have adequate regulations–and penalties–has real world consequences.  Just look at what happened in Cambria, Wisconsin in May 2017 when a corn mill exploded and workers died from what appears to be Combustible Dust.  This was and continues to be a devastating workplace accident for a smaller town in Wisconsin.  Sadly, a Journal Sentinel story indicated:

A review of online OSHA records shows the plant was cited in January 2011 for exposing its workers to dust explosion hazards. The records state that plant filters lacked an explosion protective system.

The agency ordered the mill to correct the problem by April 2011. The records show Didion paid a $3,465 fine and the case was closed in September 2013.

Such minimal OSHA fines or penalties likely provided corresponding minimal incentives to improve safety standards or hazardous practices.  The limited incentives are bolstered by relatively toothless “employer safety violation” penalty in a Wisconsin worker’s compenstion claim, which is capped at a maximum of $15,000.  

Further “anti-regulation” pushes likely increase the lack of safety incentives for employers. Those anti-regulation efforts are alive in Wisconsin and on the federal stage–especially in the Trump agenda.

Workers should be aware that anti-regulation may equal anti-worker.   And anti-safety.

 

Republicans Just Made It Easier For Employers To Hide Workplace Injuries

Today’s post comes from guest author Jay Causey, from Causey Wright.

Today’s post was shared by Jay Causey and comes from www.huffingtonpost.com.

They used an arcane procedural maneuver to repeal a significant safety regulation issued by the Obama administration.

WASHINGTON ― The Republican-led Congress moved to dismantle yet another corporate regulation on Wednesday, in a move that safety experts say will make it easier for employers to hide serious workplace injuries from the government.

The Senate voted 50-48 to strike down a rule issued late in Barack Obama’s presidency that requires large employers to keep an ongoing record of health and safety incidents. The Obama administration issued the rule in an effort to solidify what it considered long-standing policy at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

By doing away with the rule, Republicans are effectively cutting down the length of time that employers in dangerous industries are required to keep injury records ― from five years to just six months. Former OSHA officials say that doesn’t provide enough time to identify recurring problems with particular employers or industries.

They also say the change gives unscrupulous employers little incentive to keep an accurate log of injuries, since it will be more difficult for them to be penalized for not doing so. When employers have a track record of such injuries, it can lead to higher workers’ compensation costs and more government scrutiny.

“This will give license to employers to keep fraudulent records and to willfully violate the law with impunity,” said Debbie Berkowitz, a former OSHA policy adviser now with the National Employment Law Project, an advocacy group for low-wage workers.

Read the full story here.

Photo credit: Mel1st via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Worker Memorial Day Honored WA Workers Who Died as a Result of Job-Related Injuries and Illnesses

Today’s post comes from guest author Kit Case, from Causey Wright.

The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries hosts a Worker Memorial Day ceremony each spring to honor those who have died in the previous year from job-related injuries or illnesses. This year, fallen workers from all walks of life were remembered on April 27th during a ceremony at the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries’ (L&I) building in Tumwater. 

The state ceremony is one of many held in communities across the nation in April to remember those who died from work-related causes.

Families of the fallen workers were invited to attend the service, which included comments from speakers, a reading of the names of the workers who have died, and an outdoor portion where relatives were invited to ring a bell hanging in L&I’s Worker Memorial Garden. The names of the workers were also entered into a Worker Memorial book, displayed in the agency’s lobby. 

Eight truck drivers, five loggers, two nurses, a police officer, a fire chief and a flagger are among the 79 people who died from work-related causes who were honored at this year’s Worker Memorial Day observance. The men and women range in age from 19 to 90 and did all types of work, including retail clerk, business owner, truck driver, farmworker, chiropractor and arborist.

“Work-related deaths are devastating for the families and friends left behind. We should all be able to count on our loved ones returning home from work safely each day,” said L&I Director Joel Sacks. “There’s no greater legacy that we could create than preventing tragedies like these from ever being repeated.”  

Falls happen in all types of jobs, and they remain a leading cause of worker deaths. Violent crime also impacts workplaces. Eight work-related deaths last year were homicides, the highest number since 2009. Overall, recent data shows construction, trucking and agriculture continue to be among the most hazardous jobs for Washington workers. 

Workplace deaths in Washington are declining. In the early 2000s job-related deaths often numbered more than 100 annually. Still, Director Sacks said even one work-related death is too many.

The 79 workers who were remembered during the ceremony included those who died of incidents that happened in 2016, and people who passed away last year as a result of previous work-related illnesses or injuries. The ceremony also honored 12 people who died before 2016 but whose deaths were not included in previous observances.

Governor Jay Inslee took part in the ceremony, along with representatives of the Association of Washington Business, the Washington State Labor Council and the Washington Self-Insurers Association. The observance was also open to the general public.

For a complete list of those being honored, with photos and family comments for many of those honored, read more here.

Photo Credit: KUOW/JOHN RYAN  JAN 2, 2015

Mukilteo, WA Company Fined $645,000+ for Exposing Roofers to Fall Hazards

Today’s post comes from guest author Kit Case, from Causey Wright.

The WA Department of Labor and Industries issued a press release noting that a Mukilteo, WA roofing company faces large fines for multiple safety violations that exposed workers to potential falls from more than 30 feet high and other hazards at job sites in Issaquah and Vancouver.

The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) has cited America 1st Roofing & Builders Inc., for 21 safety violations in all, found during four separate inspections. In total, the company faces $645,540 in penalties.

During the inspections, L&I discovered eight violations of rules that require proper fall protection equipment and work plans to protect employees working 10 feet off the ground or more. L&I inspectors saw employees working 11 to 18 feet off the ground. Based on the company’s history and prior knowledge of the hazards and regulations, these violations were cited as “willful,” each with a penalty of $66,000.

A ninth violation was also cited as willful with the maximum legal penalty of $70,000, after one inspection found an employee working unprotected on a rooftop 32 feet off the ground.

The inspections began in August 2016, when an L&I investigator saw a worker on the roof of a three-story home under construction. America 1st has been cited for repeat-serious violations of fall protection rules at least six times in the last three years.

“Seven construction workers fell to their deaths last year in our state,” said Anne Soiza assistant director for L&I’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health. “Falls are the leading cause of construction worker deaths and hospitalizations, and yet they’re completely preventable by using proper fall protection and following safe work practices.”

Along with the fall protection violations, America 1st was cited for unsafe ladder use; not ensuring walk-around safety inspections at the beginning of each job and weekly; not requiring hard hats when working under overhead hazards; scaffold safety; not having an accident prevention program; and for not having someone with first-aid training at the worksite.

The company has appealed, and the appeals are pending.

A serious violation exists when there’s a substantial probability that worker death or serious physical harm could result from a hazardous condition. A willful violation can be issued when L&I has evidence of plain indifference, a substitution of judgment or intentional disregard of a hazard or rule.

For a copy of the citation, contact Public Affairs at 360-902-5413.

 

Photo credit: Sailing “Footprints: Real to Reel” (Ronn ashore) via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Port of Bellingham Ordered to Pay Injured Ferry Worker

Today’s post comes from guest author Kit Case, from Causey Law Firm.

Seattle Times staff reporter Mike Carter writes that the Port of Bellingham has been ordered to pay $16M in damages to an Alaska Ferries employee injured in 2012.

The verdict was returned Friday, April 1st, after a nine-day trial before U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman. Jim Jacobsen, one of the attorneys representing the employee, Shannon Adamson, and her husband, Nicholas, of Juneau, said the eight-member jury deliberated about five hours before deciding the case.

The jury found the port negligent for failing to fix a control panel that operated the passenger gangway ramp at the Bellingham Cruise Terminal, even though evidence at the trial showed the port knew the panel was faulty and officials there knew of a previous, similar accident in 2008.

The Bellingham Herald’s Samantha Wohlfeil reported in September of 2014 that the Port of Bellingham Commission had settled a dispute over insurance coverage and was then able to go forward with repairs to the passenger ramp – two years after the accident that injured Ms. Adamson.


Photo Credit: THE BELLINGHAM HERALD