In One Week, Three Workplace Deaths in Massachusetts

Sept. 3, 2009
On August 31, A 51-year-old worker was killed when he fell from a forklift, striking his head on the floor inside Super-Dog Pet Food Co. warehouse in Taunton, Mass. It appears that the worker was not using an operator restraint system. This was the third workplace death in a week in the state.

The death comes just 1 year after Super-Dog Pet Food Co. received eight OSHA violations, three of which were for violation of powered industrial trucks (forklifts). Other violations included failure to ensure that each operator had successfully completed the operator safety training and failure to provide periodic safety inspection of forklifts.

“While it is always a tragedy to hear of a worker death, it is particularly troubling when an employer has already been warned that his practices are putting workers at grave risk,” said Bob Burns, a health and safety trainer at MassCOSH, the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health. “Forklifts are potentially dangerous, heavy machinery. It is imperative that workers operating forklifts be afforded the proper training and available safety equipment, and that all forklifts be inspected for safety defects on a daily use basis.”

Aug. 31’s tragedy in Taunton came just a couple of hours after the commonwealth’s second work zone fatality in a week. That same morning, Attleboro water department employee Jeffrey Burgess died after being struck by a van that hit Burgess while he was repairing a break in the water main. One week earlier, 34-year-old police officer Michael Davey was killed in Weymouth while directing traffic at a utility site.

While those accidents are still under investigation, work zone accidents are all too common and preventable with well-established safety measures that include signage, traffic control and buffer zones and vehicle-excluding protective barriers.

MassCOSH is encouraging all employers and workers to follow established workplace regulations and guidances so that the commonwealth does not experience another such deadly week.

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