Some of the most hazardous conditions in Massachusetts workplaces are in manufacturing. Recently OSHA cited a Connecticut company that manufactured motor vehicle brake systems for 17 violations of workplace safety and health standards. The company faced more than $55,000 in fines after someone complained to the local OSHA office.
Numerous hazardous conditions gave rise to the OSHA citations. Among these were problems with the mechanical power presses used to manufacture brakes. For example, there was no safeguard to prevent the press from being operated. There was also no air-pressure switch to make sure the press would stop if the pressure supply was lost.
The barrier guards were not secured and the company failed to use die blocks when employees work on dies. Die blocks are used to keep employees safe from injury when they are working on the die or within a press platen area. Other hazards involved failure to train, failure to provide protective gear, not providing protection to employees exposed to excessive noise, failure to label containers of dangerous chemicals, and improperly storing oxygen.
OSHA explained that the company’s failure to use these safeguards put employees at risk of crushing or experiencing an amputation. Serious physical harm could come to employees as a result of the company’s failures. Although the company cited was a manufacturer of motor vehicle brakes, there are many industries that face these types of risks of amputation and other serious injury. Among these industries are construction and agriculture.
Sometimes a legitimate product liability claim against the manufacturer of a machine exists. However, many injuries are preventable where an employer takes special care to follow OSHA’s rules and make sure workers are kept as safe as possible. Workers’ compensation is often the exclusive remedy a Massachusetts employee has against an employer when he or she suffers an injury at work.
A “voluntary protection program” status designation frees employers from routine health and safety inspections by OSHA. Worksites with the highest VPP rating are re-evaluated every three to five years whereas those with lower ratings are evaluated every 18 months to 2 years. Recently OSHA has allowed some Massachusetts employer to retain a “voluntary protection program” status even after workers have been killed and safety problems have been brought to light. OSHA rarely strips this status from an employer even when fatalities occur.
Accordingly, employees must pay particular attention to safety in their workplace. If you work at a manufacturing plant or in another dangerous job, you should take affirmative steps to protect yourself from harm. Make sure your employer is following OSHA regulations by establishing and following safety protocol appropriate to the type of work being done. Machines should be inspected before use. All machines should have safeguards installed. If you notice significant departures from OSHA regulations, consider making a complaint. By law, your employer may not retaliate against you for complaining about its failure to adhere to OSHA regulations.
If you have suffered an injury in the workplace, the last thing you need is to worry about is fighting for your rights in administrative proceedings. We can help you resolve the legal issues that may arise from a workplace injury, so that you can focus on your recovery. If you are concerned about your employer’s workers’ compensation coverage, ask an experienced Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney for assistance. Contact us by calling 800-367-0871 or using our online contact form.More Blog PostsMassachusetts Workers’ Compensation and Pre-Existing Conditions, March 20, 2013
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