Illegal activities of Southern Bosses for the week ending on Friday, September 1
Last year, Brett Savage, a 36-year-old communications technician with the Alabama Forestry Commission and a resident of Deatsville, in Elmore County, was killed instantly when the communications tower he was helping a crew remove unexpectedly fell on top of him in Washington County.
Savage had only worked for the agency for three months. He left behind his wife and five children.
Last week, an unlikely outlet highlighted the story of his family trying to get accountability: 1819 News.
Dusty Savage, Brett Savage’s older brother, said the family hasn't been given a lot of details of what happened, and they want to know how this kind of incident will be prevented in the future. They also want the public to know the loss that has been suffered.
1819 said that the family reports having contacted several agencies and people involved but realize no one is taking responsibility. Savage also claims that his brother didn’t have any training doing that kind of work.
Because the Occupational Safety and Health Act exempts state and municipal governments, and because Alabama, unlike many states, does not have our own OSHA, the specialized body could not investigate the incident. Instead, the local sheriff’s office supposedly investigated and told the wife that her husband’s death was “accidental.”
"I think they should be held accountable because honestly, anybody else in Alabama would be in jail," the brother told 1819 News. "If you were out there with no certifications doing that and somebody got killed, the people responsible would be in jail. I'm not trying to get anybody put in jail but this doesn't need to happen to other people. And they shouldn't be exempt from an OSHA investigation just because they're a state agency."
Unfortunately, the brother is wrong about the consequences that private employers would face for killing someone. But, at the very least, it wouldn’t be nothing.
The U.S. Department of Labor announced last week that its Mine Safety and Health Administration completed impact inspections at 15 mines in 12 states in July 2023, issuing 288 violations and four safeguard notices.
Among the 288 violations MSHA found in July, the agency evaluated 82 as significant and substantial (reasonably likely to cause a reasonably serious injury or illness) and found one to have an unwarrantable failure finding (aggravated conduct that constitutes more than ordinary negligence). The agency completed these inspections at mines in Alabama, Alaska, California, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia.
From July 17 to 18, 2023, MSHA conducted an impact inspection at Buzzi Unicem USA’s Lone Star Pryor Plant Mill and Quarry in Mayes, Oklahoma. Selected given its previous enforcement history, the mine’s operator was cited for 53 violations. Among them, 25 were S&S violations. Specifically, agency inspectors found Buzzi Unicem USA’s violations included:
Exposing miners to hazards related to energized electrical conductors, accumulated combustible materials and improperly maintained firefighting equipment. The mine has been cited in the past for allowing exposed electrical conductors and for permitting waste or rags with flammable or combustible liquids to create a fire hazard.
Failures to install and maintain guards, provide a safe means of access to work areas, store materials properly, identify chemicals in use with proper labels and to maintain compressed air systems as required. MSHA had found the mine operator allowing many of these conditions to exist before the July impact inspection. Earlier this year, the agency issued a hazard alert related to hazardous chemicals and continues to raise awareness about this issue.
Chris Begley, a UPS Teamster of 28 years with Local 767 and father of two in Texas, died after a sweltering shift, 4 days trying to recover, and a day in the hospital.
The Teamsters said in a statement:
Last week, the Teamsters ratified our national master agreement at UPS that includes air conditioning in new vehicles, retrofitting of existing vehicles with heat shields, fans, and cargo ventilation, and a new safety and health committee to enforce company violations. While these improvements will make a difference in the months and years ahead, we had to fight like hell to secure them. Chris Begley should still be alive to experience them. All companies, including UPS, need to remember that their past failings to protect workers can have deadly serious consequences in the future.
OSHA told NBC News it has opened investigations into more than 20 heat-related workplace fatalities in Texas this year alone.
This came only days before a Texas law that eliminated municipalities' abilities to enforce water breaks through local ordinances went into effect.
Unfortunately brother Begley wasn’t the only Teamster to die from the heat last week: Tony Rufus, an 11 year Kroger distribution center worker in Memphis and member of the Teamsters Local 667 also died from heat illness. They said he went to produce to try to cool off, and that’s where he passed out and died - in front of all of his coworkers.
According to The Guardian, this comes after the union had asked the company to allow more breaks and cooler working conditions, to no avail.
After his death, members of Local 667 are asking that management sit down with them to work out new heat protections to prevent this from happening again. Kroger has not made any commitments to bargain in good faith over changes, much less committed to any concrete changes themselves.
A Fedex customer in Oklahoma said she saw her delivery person collapse in their yard. The customer and their neighbors brought the driver ice packs to help him cool down, offered to call 911, but the driver called the boss instead, who then began to yell at the driver to drink more gatorade, and get back to work after 30 more minutes of rest. The neighbors urged the driver to call 911 after no improvement, but he called the boss instead, who again yelled at him and told him not to call an ambulance. Fortunately, the neighbors called an ambulance and the driver got medical attention.
Two federal investigations have recovered $540,221 in wages for 268 H-2A workers from a father and son, then operating as North Carolina farm labor contractors, and whose violations of federal laws included failing to pay some workers their full wages, to provide safe and adequate housing and to reimburse workers’ transportation costs.
U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division investigators found Patel Shippers LLC, which provides fruits and vegetables from India and Asia to grocery stores in 10 states, including Florida, denied 25 workers overtime wages by paying them straight-time rates for all hours worked, including for hours over 40 in a workweek. The employer also failed to pay three workers at least the federal minimum wage by not keeping an accurate record of hours worked. The Department recovered $71,047 in back wages and damages.
The U.S. Department of Labor has cited Houston, TX area engine component manufacturer Air Starter Components again for failing to correct safety hazards that caused an employee’s finger amputation in March 2022. OSHA proposed $127,187 in penalties after its follow-up inspection, and $171,063 in penalties for failing to remedy the 2022 violations for a total of $298,250 in proposed penalties.
One person is dead and two are injured after a workplace accident at Warrior Met last week. The Mine Safety and Health Administration and the union - the UMWA are investigating.
A Guntersville man died Thursday night at a workplace accident, according to authorities. Cullman County Coroner Jeremy Kilpatrick said Michael Thompson, 38, died in the incident at Cullman Casting, on County Road 490. The incident happened shortly after 10:30 p.m. The body has been sent to the Department of Forensic Sciences for an autopsy. Police are investigating.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Justice announced that Japan-based Tadano Ltd. and its subsidiaries – known collectively as the Tadano Group – will pay a $40 million civil penalty and contribute an additional $3.2 million to reduce diesel emissions to resolve allegations that it violated Title II of the Clean Air Act (CAA).
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) sued Southern, a high-cost installment lender for illegal loan-churning practices that harvested hundreds of millions in loan costs and fees. The CFPB alleges that the company identifies borrowers who are struggling to repay their existing loans, and then aggressively pushes them to refinance. Borrowers become trapped in the loan churning scheme and often are forced to refinance multiple times. The CFPB is seeking to end Southern’s unlawful loan-churning practices, to gain redress for harmed consumers, and to require Southern to pay a civil money penalty.
The Federal Reserve Board on Tuesday fined Regions approximately $2.95 million for unsafe and unsound practices in its flood insurance compliance program and for flood insurance regulatory violations.
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