Illegal activities of Southern Bosses for the week ending on Friday, December 15
The US Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board completed their investigation into the 2021 deaths of 6 Gainesville poultry plant workers by liquid nitrogen, saying the deaths were “completely preventable.” Friend of the show Luis Feliz Leon wrote about this when it happened for the American Prospect.
According to a summary of the report by the Atlanta Journal Constitution:
The CSB’s findings released earlier this week confirm that a bent tube in an immersion freezer was the cause of the chemical leak. The compromised tube, likely bent during maintenance, foiled the machine’s control system. This allowed the freezer to fill with an unsafe level of liquid nitrogen, which overflowed and quickly vaporized into a four- to five-foot-high “deadly cloud.” The six victims died by asphyxiation. Three other employees and a first responder were also seriously injured.
The severity of the incident was exacerbated by Foundation Food Group’s inadequate preparedness and safety training, which according to the CSB report resulted in at least 14 employees entering the freezer room or the surrounding area to investigate what had happened or attempt to rescue their colleagues. Investigators also cited the company’s failure to install air monitoring and alarm devices, which could have warned workers about the dangerous vapor cloud and prevented them from entering the freezer room.
The position responsible for safety management had been vacant for a year, and they had no PPE.
Debbie Berkowitz, a former chief of staff at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and a current fellow at Georgetown University’s Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor, tolk the AJC: “These are stunning failures and really just another example how the poultry industry treats the most vulnerable workers in the state of Georgia as expendable,” Berkowitz said. “The company didn’t even label the equipment filled with liquid nitrogen that this was hazardous, even though one of the oldest standards by OSHA has required this since the early 1980s.”
“These are stunning failures and really just another example how the poultry industry treats the most vulnerable workers in the state of Georgia as expendable,” Berkowitz said. “The company didn’t even label the equipment filled with liquid nitrogen that this was hazardous, even though one of the oldest standards by OSHA has required this since the early 1980s.”
Unlike OSHA, the CSB doesn’t impose fines or penalties. Instead, it specifically investigates workplace chemical accidents and issues recommendations on how to prevent them.
86 year old Verna Mae Jackson was killed on the job at the FedEx World Hub in Memphis. The family’s lawyer says that this was a completely preventable death.
Local Memphis reported:
According to Rosenblum, a "driver" pulling a load of mail didn't honk adequately enough to signal as they were driving off just as Jackson attempted to grab an envelope that was sticking out of a container.
"There's technology available that would allow the vehicle to make that sound, to warn, to alert that the vehicle is about to move before it moves an inch. And if we believe those precautions had been taken, if that equipment had been purchased or maybe it was there and not maintained appropriately, she wouldn't be dead," Rosenblum said.
A federal investigation into the fatal roof collapse at Friendswood High School in June 2023 in which four workers suffered injuries — including one who later died — found two Houston-area contractors exposed employees to safety hazards by ignoring federal requirements to complete an engineering survey before demolition began.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration determined that supervisors of ICI Construction Inc. and Emanuel Enterprises LLC failed to complete the survey and allowed demolition to continue, even after hazards became apparent to them. In fact, they directed employees to continue to work under the structure that later collapsed on them.
“Ignoring federal standards and the company’s own policies prevented them from identifying a load-bearing wall that was shown on construction drawings,” said OSHA Area Director Mark Briggs in Houston. “This willful disregard for worker safety was a tragic mistake that cost a worker his life.”
OSHA issued citations to ICI Construction, the general contractor, and Emanuel Enterprises, the project’s demolition contractor, for willfully ignoring federal requirements to complete an engineering survey. In addition, the agency cited Emanuel Enterprises for three serious safety violations for its failures to protect workers from silica exposure and use respirators properly.
OSHA assessed a total of $315,643 in proposed penalties, including $175,010 for Emanuel Enterprises LLC and $140,633 for ICI Construction Inc., both set by federal statute.
The companies have 15 business days from receipt of citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
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