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OSHA action may help wrongful death litigation

In our last post we discussed the possibility that a wrongful death lawsuit may be filed against an animal food processor after the death of an employee in one of the food processor’s silos. The employee sunk in cotton seed and suffocated to death. Accidents such as this one are not uncommon and approximately 26 similar deaths occurred in silos last year. The frequency of silo deaths is particularly disturbing because these deaths are preventable. The employer in this case failed to abide by health and safety standards or properly train its employees on safety measures to prevent accidents such as this one.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued citations and fines against the employer this week because it believes that the employer had an intentional disregard for the safety of its workers.

“This employer is well aware of the hazards and safeguards associated with silo entry yet chose to send untrained and improperly equipped employees into a dangerous work situation,” said Christopher Adams, an OSHA area director. “This worker’s death shows the irreparable consequences and severe human cost that can result from an employer’s failure to use common-sense and legally required safeguards.”

The animal food processor faces 21 citations, four of which are for willful violations. A willful violation is when an employer shows indifference to employee safety or intentionally disregards legal safety requirements. These citations may bolster any wrongful death actions against the employer and hopefully help ensure that an accident like this does not happen at any of the company’s other silos.

Source: OSHA, “US Labor Department’s OSHA cites Utica, NY, animal feed processor following worker’s fatal engulfment in storage silo,” Nov. 15, 2011

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