Last week, Tavares received a stark reminder of the importance of workplace safety and why all employees should know how to recognize and report fall hazards in their workplace. A food company employee was moving pallets of mushrooms with a forklift when the pallets began to sway. He escaped from his forklift, but the pallets fell on him before he could get away, fatally crushing him.
This June 6 accident happened at Monterey Mushrooms, which the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration previously fined for a serious violation related to pallets. OSHA hit Monterey Mushrooms with a $6,000 penalty in December for the hazardous conditions employees were placed in while working with pallets and mushroom bed frames. The hazard was “likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees,” according to OSHA’s violation report. OSHA was acting on an employee complaint.
Although this safety complaint was a good start for holding Monterey Mushrooms accountable for workplace safety, it wasn’t enough to force the company to adhere to better safety standards. Workers in Tavares must be able to recognize and report multiple types of fall hazards in order to effect change in the workplace.
Workers have the right to file a complaint and request an OSHA inspection of their workplace if they believe there is a hazard present, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. OSHA provides many ways for workers to confidentially file a safety and health complaint against their workplace. Workers may file the complaint online, mail, or fax an OSHA complaint form, or call their local OSHA regional or area office.
Employees are granted safety from retaliation, and may file a whistleblower’s complaint if they believe they are the victim of retaliation. This is to ensure each worker is empowered to advocate for better safety conditions in their workplace.
Here are the most common types of fall hazards in the workplace that workers can report to OSHA.
Unprotected Work Conditions, Six Feet or Above
In the case of Monterey Mushroom’s December violation, employees were in work conditions eight feet above the ground as they tended to mushroom beds and pallets. OSHA requires that any work conditions above six feet be protected by fall protection measures, such as a fall arrest system or guardrails. Employees who are made to work in conditions above six feet without these safety measures have the right to report their workplace.
Improper Scaffold Use
Scaffolds are elevated, temporary work platforms. When well constructed, they are a safe way for employees to work high off the ground. However, they can be dangerous if poorly constructed and unstable. Guardrails must be installed on scaffolds and all scaffolds must be properly planked, without holes or gaps. Scaffolds must be equipped with a ladder designed for scaffolding use, to allow workers to get on and off the scaffolding safely.
Improper Ladder Use
All work ladders must be inspected prior to each use, and must be kept in good condition and properly maintained. The correct size ladder must also be used for each job.
Also, employees should never stand on the top of the ladder. Instead, they should use a tall enough ladder in order to do the work required. Ladders must be used on stable and level surfaces and positioned at a safe angle to avoid fall hazards when climbing up or down the ladder.
Struck By Falling Objects
Fall hazards aren’t restricted to just employees tripping and falling. Falling objects can also harm workers, as in the case of the Tavares worker crushed to death by falling pallets. Struck-by falling object hazards pertain to collapsing structures, materials, or debris being the source of injury.
Forklifts are supposed to have a proper steel safety cage to prevent employees from being harmed if heavy loads fall from the forklift. The Tavares worker was crushed after exiting the forklift. However, the ongoing OSHA investigation must determine if Monterey Mushrooms properly trained the worker on forklift safety protocols. The investigation must also determine if the forklift had the required steel safety cage. If it didn’t, it could explain why the worker fled from his forklift instead of staying put – because he was at risk of being struck by a falling object.
Were you injured in an accident caused by unsafe conditions in your Tavares workplace? Our workers’ compensation attorneys at Morgan & Morgan can help. Read more to learn about the different types of injuries that are covered by workers’ compensation and the steps you need to take to receive compensation. If you’re ready to pursue filing a claim, contact us for a free, no-risk case evaluation.