In a terrible accident that occurred last week, a man was killed after becoming entangled in a rotary turbine engine while cleaning a shellfish-shucking machine at Sea Watch International. The man, whose name was Victor Gerena, is only the most recent casualty in a string of recent deaths caused by large machinery. The deaths put into question the adequacy of safety controls for large machinery near which individuals like Gerena often work.
Last year, a woman at Piantedosi Baking Company was killed after her apron became ensnared in a conveyor belt and strangled her. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a division of the United States Department of Labor, fined the bakery over $20,000 for deficient safety measures, including a lack of emergency stop buttons. There are a certain number of standards that OSHA imposes on companies that have large machinery, including ensuring that there are a number of highly visible emergency stop buttons in case a worker gets caught in machinery.
Incomplete safety measures do not only cause deaths, they frequently cause loss of limbs and other body parts as well. In 2005, the U.S. Bureau of Labor released data showing that there had been over 8,000 non-fatal amputation cases for all of private industry that year alone. Approximately 44 percent of those amputations happened in the manufacturing sector. For its part, OSHA has a long list of safety measures that must be in place depending on the type of machine, as well as the type of commercial activity, in which worker is engaged. In addition to emergency stop buttons, for example, OSHA frequently requires the development of barrier-guards over rotating parts. OSHA’s machine guarding standards for industry, marine terminals, longshoring, the construction industry, and the agriculture industry can be found here.
For Sea Watch International, this is not the first time they have been fined for violating OSHA regulations. In 2011, OSHA inspected the plant, and found that many workers had inadequate respiratory protection, and that Sea Watch International had not sufficiently trained its employees in how to properly deal with hazardous waste. For these violations, Sea Watch International was fined over $4,000.
Although worker injuries in the United States have significantly decreased – from roughly over 10 injury incidents per 100 employees in 1972 to 3.5 injury incidents per 100 employees in 2011 – there is still much more that can be done to ensure that our workers are safe. These are the people that make our food, build our buildings, and sow our clothes. They deserve the highest safety standards possible.
If you or someone you know has been injured in the workplace due to unsafe machinery, contact the Law Office of John J. Sheehan immediately. We have over 14 years of experience representing injured workers and working within the Massachusetts’ compensation system.