Preventable and tragic incidents happen each day in American workplaces. In a country that likes to pride itself on being ahead of the game, there are 100,000 fatalities a year that are the direct result of workers being exposed to hazards.
The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH) recently named 12 employers to its “Dirty Dozen” list for 2017. You can find the entire “Dirty Dozen 2017: Employers Who Put Workers & Communities at Risk” on the National COSH web site, but for now, let’s take a look at the information National COSH shared for three of those employers:
Dedicated TCS, Lansing, Ill.
Dedicated TCS was added to the Dirty Dozen list because of its “consistent and unacceptable habit” of failing to safeguard employees.
On Oct. 8, 2015, Armond Stack, father of six and grandfather of nine, and two coworkers entered a railway tanker at the Port of New Orleans. Stack did not come out alive.
No one from Dedicated TCS had checked the air quality inside the tanker, which Stack and the others had been tasked with cleaning. If they had, they would have known that the oxygen levels in the tank were too low to support life. One worker managed to make it out of the car and called emergency services. Another worker was saved by emergency workers, but Stack had no pulse and was pronounced dead at a local hospital.
In January 2015, just 10 months before Stack was killed and his coworkers injured, OSHA cited Dedicated TCS for a lack of functioning gas meters and a lack of confined space rescue equipment at a worksite in Channahon, Ill. It was the third time in two years that OSHA had issued similar citations to the company.
OSHA found nine violations during its investigation of Stack’s death, including a failure to monitor the air in confined spaces and a lack of confined space rescue equipment. The agency recommended fines of $226,000. In October 2016, Stack’s children filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Dedicated TCS and insurance firms.
Nissan USA, Franklin, Tenn.
Dennis Pinkston, a maintenance technician at Nissan’s assembly plant in Smyrna, Tenn., went to Nov. 16, 2016 and never returned home. He suffered a “severe, crushing head injury” when he was struck by a 1,275-pound counterweight while checking on repairs to a conveyor belt and never recovered. Tennessee OSHA (TOSHA) cited Nissan for failure to properly guard the machine and recommended $29,000 in fines.
Three other workers died in the Smyrna factory over a four-year period, including:
- Maintenance technician Michael Hooper, who died in June 2013 when a piece of robotic machinery fell on him. TOSHA fined Nissan $10,400 after investigating the incident. Hooper had worked for the company for 20 years.
- Tan Van To was killed in April 2013 was crushed to death when a large electrical panel fell on him. He worked for Nissan supplier Complete Automation.
- Truck driver Martin O’Connell was killed in January 2012 when he became trapped between his truck and a group of trailers.
Nissan workers report a corporate culture that allegedly discourages them from reporting injuries or seeking outside treatment.
Pilgrim’s Pride, Greeley, Colo.
Christopher Chin stopped to remove a piece of cardboard from a hopper at a Pilgrim’s Pride poultry processing plant in Canton, Ga., in October 2012. While reaching in to grab the cardboard, Chin became caught in the machine and was killed. According to OSHA investigators, the machine should have been fitted with a guard to keep employees from reaching into the machine while it was operating.
In July 2011, James Bynum, a longtime employee at Pilgrim’s Pride Corp., was fatally injured when he was run over and pinned beneath a truck at work. Attorneys later negotiated a $2.5 million settlement in connection to this fatality.
The violations continue today: In March 2016, OSHA proposed $77,000 in fines against a Pilgrim’s Pride facility in Russellville, Ala., after a worker lost three fingers when a machine started up while he was repairing it. Also in March 2016, OSHA fined Pilgrim’s Pride $122,500 for failure to use proper safety procedures that could have prevented the release of 79 pounds of anhydrous ammonia at its Waco, Texas location. The agency cited Pilgrim's for the same or similar violations at its plants in in Nacogdoches, Texas in February 2015 and in De Queen, Arkansas, in July 2013.