Two Massachusetts Workers Killed in Boom Truck Collapse

April 18th, 2014

AmbulanceInvestigators from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) are on the scene of an accident that happened last Saturday, April 12, in which two utility workers were working on electricity lines about 150 feet above the Scenic Highway in Massachusetts, when their boom truck collapsed, killing them on impact.

According to police, the utility workers, who worked for MassBay Electrical Corp., were performing maintenance on a power line at the Cape Cod Aggregate Corp., which is a sand and gravel pit in Bourne, a town on Cape Cod. The truck was positioned very close to a deep embankment when the boom collapsed with the two workers inside the truck’s bucket. After dropping 150 feet to the ground below, they fell another 75 feet down the embankment, as the truck flipped over.

Co-workers at the scene were described as shaken up, because they knew the two deceased workers very well. There weren’t many specific details about the accident early on, but in addition to OSHA’s investigation, the Massachusetts State Police and the Cape Cod and Island District Attorney’s office are also investigating the accident.

U.S. OSHA Orders CN Subsidiary to Reinstate Worker, Pay $350,000 in Wisconsin Case

April 17th, 2014

InvestigationThe U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has ordered Wisconsin Central Limited railway, which is a subsidiary of Canadian National, to pay a $350,000 settlement to a Wisconsin conductor who was terminated after he had reported being injured while he was on the job.

According to OSHA officials, the conductor was injured in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, during his 60-day probationary period. While the injury was reported that day, it wasn’t until the end of his shift. Wisconsin Central terminated the conductor on the last day of his probation, claiming that he had failed to report the injury promptly.

OSHA disagreed with that assessment, and ordered that the worker be reinstated to his job, and that he be given $350,000 in compensation.

Officials with CN have suggested that the railway disagrees with the agency’s ruling and is considering its options for appeal.

Manitoba WCB Vows to Fight Overt Claims Suppression

April 16th, 2014

Handicapped driverAccording to a new in-depth review by the Workers Compensation Board of Manitoba (WCB), Claim Suppression in the Manitoba Workers Compensation System: Research Report, overt suppression of workplace injury claims is actually a common phenomenon, representing about 1,000 claims per year, or six percent of the total.

Overt suppression is defined by the WCB as a situation in which an employer threatens or coerces a worker, to get them to either not file a claim, or to withdraw a filed claim, or to provide misinformation to the WCB with regard to eligibility. In addition to overt suppression, 14 percent of claims were misreported, meaning lost-time injuries were reported as no-lost-time claims.

In a statement accompanying the review, the WCB made clear that, while they were concerned about all types of under-reporting, overt claim suppression was especially troubling, because of the impact  on workers. “We are using the report’s findings to guide our efforts to reduce claim suppression,” they said.

The WCB board plans a variety of possible initiatives in an effort to target the problem, including; a new compliance framework, to better educate stakeholders as to the rules and obligations they have under the system; new or enhanced administrative penalties related to claim suppression; changes in the assessment rate model to account for suppression; a public awareness campaign to remind employers of their legal obligation to both report injuries and encourage workers to report injuries; and an outreach program for vulnerable workers, to make sure they’re aware of their rights and responsibilities under the system.

The report also found a significant number of cases of under-claiming of benefits. The report reads, “Survey evidence suggests that around 30.1% of workers who experienced a work-related injury that involved more than five days of lost working time may not have claimed WCB lost earnings benefits. Lack of knowledge of entitlement rights and workers’ preference for readily available alternatives (e.g. Manitoba Health, sick leave, employer benefit plans) are the most important factors behind under-claiming.”

The WCB also estimates that about 19 percent of claims annually involve “soft” suppression, which is when an employer continues to pay the worker normally, even after a workplace injury and missed work. According to the report, “Soft claim suppression may occur whether or not the employer is aware of its reporting responsibilities under the Workers Compensation Act.”

The report, Claim Suppression in the Manitoba Workers Compensation System: Research Report can be read by clicking on the link.

 

Toronto Endorses “Stop the Killing” Workplace Safety Campaign

April 15th, 2014

Traffic ControlBy a vote of 36-1 (with Mayor Rob Ford being the only “no” vote), the Toronto City Council has voted to endorse a United Steel Workers (USW) workplace safety campaign with the provocative title, “Stop the Killing.”

This campaign against workplace death and injury is considered one of the most straightforward campaigns of its type, and its goals are crystal clear. The campaign advocates for a more stringent enforcement of the Westray Law, which is embodied in a series of Criminal Code amendments that were designed to make corporations and their directors and executives more responsible by making them criminally liable for workplace injuries and deaths.

The Westray amendments were approved by the federal government in the hope that such a law would improve worker and public safety, by creating greater legal accountability on the part of corporate officers. Westray marked the first time it was possible to hold corporations or senior officers subject to criminal sanctions if they failed to ensure adequate protections for workers and the public. The amendments were a response to the public outcry after an explosion at the Westray coal mine in May 1992, which killed 26 workers.

At the time, a number of workplace safety advocates, including the USW, saw the Westray Law as a major victory. But since then, they’ve been disappointed with the lack of enforcement. Since the Westray Bill’s passage in 2003, not a single corporate executive has faced even one day in jail. This, despite the fact that 9,000 Canadian workers have been killed on the job since the law was passed. Because of this, the USW has been working to gather local support one city, town, or region at a time.

With the Toronto City Council’s approval, the city joins Ontario cities Hamilton, Sault Ste. Marie and Sudbury in endorsing the Stop the Killing campaign. Pictou County and Trenton in Nova Scotia and Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island have also endorsed the campaign. In fact, in all of those jurisdictions, the campaign received unanimous support. Rob Ford is thus far the only municipal official to vote against an endorsement.

Once they have the support of most Canadian municipalities, the USW plans to forward that support to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, who will then be asked to support the national campaign.

 

Wasteco and Front-End Loader Operator Fined for Fatal Accident

April 14th, 2014

FELSouthern Sanitation Inc., operating as Wasteco, has been fined $170,000, and one of its employees has been hit personally with another $6,000 fine for an accident in which a company worker was killed when he was crushed between two vehicles.

The company’s fine came as a result of pleading guilty at Provincial Offices Court on April 1, to failing to ensure that measures and procedures under the law were followed. The employee, Abdul Maneed Malik, was fined after he pled guilty to operating equipment in a manner that may endanger a worker.

The accident that led to the fines happened on April 15, 2013. That day, a worker backed a truck into a drop-off bay at a Wasteco transfer station at the same time Malik was operating a front-end loader in the same drop-off bay, placing waste into a collection area. The truck driver exited his truck and went to the back to attend to his open bin doors, just as Malik reversed the front-end loader, apparently without looking back to make sure the way was clear. The last he had seen of the truck driver was moments earlier, when the driver was still in the cab.

After backing up, Malik heard someone calling for help, then stopped the loader, after which he saw the truck driver lying face down on the ground just behind the truck. He ran to get help, while another worker tried to give the truck driver first aid. Emergency responders arrived soon after, and pronounced the driver dead at the scene.

In addition to the fines, the court also added a 25 percent victim fine surcharge as required by the Provincial Offences Act. That means the company is out $212,000 in total, and the driver will have to pay $7,500 out of his own pocket, simply because he failed to look behind him before backing up his front-end loader.

This is another example showing that creating a culture of safety doesn’t cost anyone; it pays.

OSHA Investigating Arkansas Worker Fall From Bridge

April 4th, 2014

Emergency truckThe U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is investigating a construction accident that occurred on March 27 in Fayetteville, Arkansas, when a worker fell.

The accident happened when a worker for St. Louis-based highway construction company Pace Construction Co. was on a scaffold cutting rebar from concrete barriers as part of a project to widen a highway bridge. Suddenly, the scaffolding he was on collapsed, sending him on a 30-foot fall from the bridge to the ground below.

Emergency crews responded at the scene at 2:22 p.m. The worker was transported to Washington Regional Medical Center in Fayetteville with serious injuries, although it is currently unknown whether the man’s injuries are life-threatening. The Fayetteville Fire Department, however, has suggested that he may have suffered internal bleeding and several fractures.

Two More Telecom Tower Workers Die in Kansas

April 3rd, 2014

Fall Arrest HarnessThe U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is conducting an investigation into the collapse of a communications tower in Kansas that resulted in the deaths of two workers from Missouri; Seth Garner and Martin Powers.

Both men worked for St. Louis-based Wireless Horizon, which was a subcontractor for the Union Pacific Railroad. They were working at a height of about 250 feet above ground to remove equipment from a cell phone tower that was being dismantled, when the tower collapsed. When the old tower collapsed, it also took down a new tower that was adjacent to it.

Emergency crews arrived soon after. They pronounced Powers dead at the scene, while Garner was transported to a local hospital, where he died soon after. According to local police, the workers were wearing appropriate personal protective equipment, such as fall protection harnesses, at the time of the accident. OSHA is investigating the accident.

The agency is becoming increasingly worried by the number of fatalities among telecom tower workers lately. Just last year, there were 13 tower-related fatalities, and there were four already this year, even before this accident.

To attempt to stem the tide, the agency is working with a number of telecom stakeholders, including the National Association of Tower Erectors, to ensure that every communication tower employer understands that they have a responsibility to protect all workers who perform this high-risk work. They sent a letter to tower industry employers advising them of the fatality statistics, and reminded them that “Every single one of these tragedies was preventable. OSHA has found that a high proportion of these incidents occurred because of a lack of fall protection: either employers were not providing appropriate fall protection to employees, or they are not ensuring that their employees use fall protection properly. As a result, communication tower climbers are falling to their deaths.”

OSHA is already targeting fall hazards, so don’t be surprised if they start pointing a laser focus on the cell phone tower industry. They don’t believe this is a price that should be paid for good service.

First Alberta OHS Officers Graduate as Peace Officers

April 2nd, 2014

PoliceThe first group of ten Alberta Occupational Health and Safety officers from the Ministry of Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour has passed newly designed peace officer training, and have been granted peace officer status, which means they now have greater authority to enforce the rules, and to make sure workers on the job are safer moving forward.

With their new designation as peace officers, OHS officers can now write tickets to employers and workers who are trying to avoid the rules that are designed to keep everyone in the workplace safe.

Expect them to be busy. There are a total of 67 offenses that are immediately ticketable, all for specific violations of the OHS legislation. Here is a list. They can be given to any party subject to OHS laws, including workers, supervisors, contractors, including prime contractors and subcontractors, suppliers, and even employers. The fines associated with the tickets range from $100 to $500 and can be issued on the spot. Like parking or traffic tickets, the OHS tickets can be paid at any Alberta courthouse. And like traffic tickets, any party is allowed to plead not guilty and have the option of attending a court date.

More officers will graduate the training in June, and more groups will continue to be trained until all 143 compliance officers in the province have been certified to write tickets.

Worker Loses Fingers, Food Processor Loses $110,000 Fine

April 1st, 2014

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Last week, the Ontario Court of Justice hit Maple Leaf Consumer Foods, carrying on business as Maple Leaf Consumer Foods and Cappola Foods, with a $110,000 fine for an accident in which a worker using a meat chopping machine lost several fingers.

According to a report from the Ontario Ministry of Labour, the plant worker was operating a meat chopper, which has a moving blade enclosed in a small cage. When the blade was being operated and the cage was lifted, the blade would slowly come to a stop. While the worker was operating the machine, he noticed that some meat had become stuck in the blade, so he lifted the safety cage and used a hook to try and pull the meat from the blade, which continued to spin. The hook then became caught by the moving blade, which pulled the worker’s hand toward the blade, where his hand come into contact with the blade, which resulted in the loss of several fingers.

After a thorough investigation, the Ministry of Labour charged Maple Leaf Foods with failure, as an employer, to ensure that a moving part of a machine was cleaned only after it had stopped.

The $110,000 fine was imposed by Justice of the Peace David J. Hunt, who also added in the 25 percent victim fine surcharge as required by the Provincial Offences Act.

That means an easily avoidable accident ended up costing the company a total of $137,500. Compare that to the cost of training workers, and you’ll see what a bargain a safe workplace can be.

Excavator Accident in Alberta Kills Young Racecar Driver

March 31st, 2014

ExcavatorA worksite excavator accident in Fort McMurray, Alberta has taken the life of a promising young racecar driver from Fredericton, New Brunswick.

According to a preliminary report from the occupational health and safety (OH&S) department of the Alberta Ministry of Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour, the accident occurred on March 14, when a 21-year-old worker, Jordan Gahan, was operating an excavator at the bottom of a borrow pit, when it suddenly fell through some ice.

OH&S placed a stop-work order on the site, and they are conducting an investigation into the accident, but because it’s still ongoing, information was in short supply with regard to the details of the accident. All anyone knows at this time is that the excavator fell through the ice and Gahan, who worked for excavation company Brayford Trucking Ltd., is dead. A company spokesperson said the company does have extensive plans in place for trying to avoid accidents involving vehicles and unstable ice. An OH&S spokesperson did note that the Alberta Occupational Health and Safety Act did address working on ice.

According to various news reports, Gahan had moved to Alberta temporarily last August, and that he was planning to return home to New Brunswick at the end of March, to resume his budding racing career. He was a driver in the Pro Stock Division of the National Hot Rod Association, where he drove a Chevy with the number 16. In 2010, he was chosen the Pro Stock Rookie of the Year at Speedway 660, a racetrack in Geary, New Brunswick, and he placed third for the 2012 race season.