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Massachusetts Seafood Processor Cited for Serious Violations

Recently the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigated the death of a sanitation supervisor at a fish processing plant. The supervisor died after getting caught in a shucking machine with rotating parts. The supervisor’s employer was cited for seven safety violations, including failure to put into effect basic safety procedures for workers who service or clean machines.

The OSHA director explained that it was a death that could have been prevented by implementing safety practices. A citation was issued for the company’s failure to implement lockout/tagout procedures to protect workers who cleaned machinery. Other violations included the failure to provide lockout devices, not periodically inspecting the procedures to make sure the requirements were being met, and failure to train those employees affected in lockout/tagout procedures. Workers were exposed to falls and were not trained in chemical hazard communication methods.

A temporary employment company that sent temporary workers to the plan was also cited for lack of lockout/tagout procedures, lack of chemical hazard communication, and exposing workers to hazards in connection with ladders. The company had a supervisor on site who knew that the working conditions were not good for employee safety.

OSHA put together an initiative last year to address injuries to temporary workers. Temporary workers must receive training and protections just as existing employees do. Failure to ensure their training may result in citations. The fish processing plant was assessed proposed fines of $35,410. The temp agency was assessed proposed fines of $9,000.

The U.S. Secretary of Labor has stated that exposure to hazardous chemicals is one of the most serious threats to American workers. The OSHA Hazard Communication standard is aligned with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals. The goal of the standard is to offer a coherent way to classify chemicals and communicate hazards on safety data sheets and labels.

There are specific standards for hazard communication in different industries, including longshoring, construction, shipyard employment, and general industry. Regardless of the industry, workers need easily understandable information on how to handle and use hazardous chemicals, as well as any other hazards.

It is critical for employers to communicate dangers in the workplace to workers in order to protect them. Similarly, if you are a temporary worker employed by an agency or placement company, the placement agency should explain how to be safe at a particular placement before you start the job. If you work around hazardous machinery or chemicals, or both, you will need information about how to handle the risks, including what to do if a machine unexpectedly starts up or chemicals mix.

In connection with the case described above, you should be aware that a surviving spouse and dependent children can recover weekly death benefits by filing a workers’ compensation claim, if a worker is killed on the job. The benefits are granted at a rate similar to the rates of total and permanent disability benefits, and they are issued for five years. The time period is longer if the spouse is not fully self-supporting at the end of the five-year period, or shorter if the surviving spouse remarries.

If you are hurt at work, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. An experienced Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney can evaluate whether you have a sound claim and fight to make sure that your employer and its insurer follow the rules or give you guidance if there is no insurance available. Contact us by calling 800-367-0871 or using our online contact form.

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