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Two recent OSHA investigations expose risks for workers

On Behalf of | Jan 11, 2017 | Personal Injury

Recent work injury news in New Jersey has been disturbing, to say the least. While the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) constantly looks out for workers by issuing standards to protect them, many employers don’t respect or follow the rules. That leaves employees needlessly exposed to dangerous situations.

Case One

In December, OSHA cited the Jersey City Medical Center for five safety violations (four serious and one willful) because a worker sustained an electrical shock and fell from a ladder while changing an overhead ballast in a light fixture. The violation? The medical center had not trained workers on the proper procedure to do this safely. The worker was not trained how to shut down the machinery or equipment that shocked him-and ultimately resulted in his death, a few weeks after the accident.

The employer failed its employee in many ways: by not teaching or using lockout/tagout safeguards; by not training its maintenance workers; and by not providing protective equipment. In short, this death could have been prevented but for the medical center’s negligence. Jersey City Medical Center faces a proposed penalty of nearly $175,000, but is that high enough, considering a worker was killed?

Case Two

Nine OSHA citations (one willful and eight serious) issued in December and reported this week revolve around a construction project in Verona, N.J. The general contractor, The Landtek Group, had workers at Verona High School entering an unprotected 10-foor-deep excavation. Without shoring up and other protection methods, an excavation can quickly cave in, soil collapsing and burying those underneath it.

In addition, other OSHA violations included Landtek’s failure to train workers, lack of correct permit, lack of coordinating rescue services and mechanical retrieval equipment in case of emergency. They failed to safeguard their workers in many respects on this site related to trenching standards. Fortunately, no lives were lost at this worksite at the time of the violations (June 2016), but the conditions were dangerous enough to take more than one life. (The Landtek Group now faces a hefty fine.)

Workplace accidents, especially in the construction business, occur far too often despite OSHA’s hard work to keep companies in line. When injuries happen on the job, employers need to be held accountable , especially when accidents involve lost wages, serious medical issues and even the inability to work in the future. Contact a lawyer experienced in this area if you have questions about a situation that’s happened to you. 

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