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Temp worker's death prompts scrutiny

A Pennsylvania temp worker was killed in a sugar plant accident in February 2013 in Fairless Hills. The man was breaking up clumps in a sugar hopper when he slid into it and was killed by suffocation. The sugar plant had initially had a safety screen in the hopper, but it was removed 13 days before the accident because the manager at the plant believed that it was slowing production.

The sugar company had previously been fined for failing to train temp workers properly, but OSHA did not find the company in willful violation. It was fined $25,855, but the fine was then reduced to $18,098. Though OSHA does have some authority, it cannot shut down a business and can only enforce criminal penalties to a certain extent.

A U.S. senator wrote to OSHA regarding the death of the temp worker. In particular, his letter conveyed a belief that the number of temp worker deaths is unacceptable. The senator also stated that the legal and legislative blocks preventing OSHA from enacting further enforcement are contributing to a climate that is unsafe for temp workers. OSHA has previously enhanced protections for temp workers but is still limited in its authority.

Construction accidents take the lives of many workers each year. In particular, temp workers tend to have less training and less familiarity with a given workspace, which contributes to accidents. When a worker is injured or killed on the job, medical and funeral expenses can become extremely high. For construction workers, the exorbitant cost may be too much to cover without help. In these cases, it may be helpful for the families of workers to consult with a lawyer who has experience in workplace injury suits. The lawyer may be able to help the family pursue a settlement.

Source: Westmoreland Times, "Senator Casey asks OSHA about man buried alive in sugar", Michael Grabell, July 11, 2014

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