“Dirty Dozen” Unsafe Employers Putting Workers at Risk

May 20, 2024

A retail giant, a space launch operation, a major food processor, the nation’s two biggest rideshare providers and a large healthcare system are among those entities marked as being among the most unsafe employers.

The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health released a list of its “Dirty Dozen” employers of 2024, examples of employers that National COSH asserts put workers and communities at risk due to unsafe practices, which reportedly lead to preventable illnesses, injuries and fatalities.

According to the National COSH, several of the entities on the list also engaged in harassment and retaliation against workers who spoke out about their safety concerns.

The group held a webinar, which included testimonials from some of the workers at the named-companies.

Cindy Smith has been a server at Waffle House for 30 years. In that time, she said she has been robbed twice and has dealt with numerous customer incidents that could have been curtailed. “I’m scared to death every time I leave this house,” said Smith, who is a member of the Union of Southern Service Workers. “I worry if I’m going to come home to my family.”

Her union has held strikes and protests in an effort to force Waffle House to be more proactive in protecting the safety of its workers. “It is a multi-billion-dollar corporation, they can afford to have security at every location,” Smith added.

Former Costa Farms worker Ana Mejia has worked in the agriculture industry for 11 years. She said she has twice had symptoms of heat exhaustion while working, including dizziness, palpitation and rashes.

“I have suffered from the extreme heat,” she said. “Once they took me to the nurse at work, and it was very sunny, but the nurse was not there.” Those who were there could do little more than give her a drink in the shade and wait for her to feel better, she said.

Lyft driver J.C. Muhammad shared a story of being harassed and attacked by a rider. The incident motivated him to demand greater safety measures for drivers, such as requiring ID from riders and people who request rides for others, the ability to collect information needed to file police reports when needed and clear warnings for riders outlining the consequences of physically attacking drivers.

“All those things need to be in place to protect drivers on the road,” Muhammad said.

The “Dirty Dozen” list was selected by the National COSH team, with nominations from local COSH groups, worker centers, unions, and worker leaders and advocates.

The selection criteria included:

  • Severity of safety risks to workers
  • Repeat and serious violations of safety standards and applicable laws
  • The position of a company within its industry and the economy and its ability to influence broader workplace standards
  • Presence of a campaign by workers or allies to correct health and safety problems.

National COSH says statistics show that preventable fatalities in U.S. workplaces are increasing, as are preventable illnesses and injuries. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show 5,486 U.S. workers died from sudden workplace trauma in 2022, a 5.7% increase in preventable deaths from 2021. BLS statistics also show 2.8 million U.S. workers suffered workplace injuries and illnesses in 2022, a 7.5% increase from 2021.

Following are the entities and National COSH’s summary of its reasoning for their inclusion on the list:

Alabama Department of Corrections: Forced labor in Alabama prisons disproportionately targets Black men and women, who face hazardous working conditions and make $2 a day or less.

Ascension: Severe staff cuts create unsafe conditions for patients and workers at the nation’s largest Catholic healthcare system.

Black Iron/Xl Concrete: One worker dies from electrocution; another loses a thumb at a company with 29 OSHA violations during the past decade.

Costa Farms: In 2021, a worker dies from heat exhaustion at a Costa Farms nursery in Miami. Two years later, company executives lobby against a Miami-Dade heat safety ordinance.

Florence Hardwoods: In June 2023, 16-year-old Michael Shuls is crushed to death inside a stalled conveyor at a lumber mill in northern Wisconsin. The company has been previously cited for failure to properly lock out and guard machinery — the same hazards that killed Shuls.

Mar-Jack Poultry and Onin Staffing: Duvan Perez, an immigrant teenager, is killed at this poultry firm, which has a history of safety violations. Teenagers are prohibited from working hazardous jobs and Mar-Jac blames Onin Staffing for illegally hiring Perez. But Onin denies it was Perez’s employer.

Space X and The Boring Company: Workers suffer crushed limbs, amputations, chemical burns and a preventable death at companies owned by billionaire Elon Musk. Workers say Musk is obsessed with speed, but disregards safety.

Tyson Foods: Six workers have died on the job at Tyson since 2019, and more than 140 others have suffered injuries from hazardous ammonia leaks. The company is also under investigation for assigning children to dangerous, high-risk jobs.

Uber and Lyft: More than 80 mobile app workers have been killed on the job since 2017. Internal documents show 24,000 “alleged assaults and threats of assault” against Uber drivers.

Valor Security and Investigations: The New York City firm is indicted for selling fake safety certificates, endangering workers who never receive any training. Construction worker Ivan Frias — with a “certificate” from Valor but never trained — falls to his death in 2022.

Waffle House: Restaurants in this 24-hour, 365-days-per-year chain “have developed a reputation as a hotbed for violence.” A worker was shot and killed in 2022, with multiple shootings already in 2024.

Walmart: In 2022, Janikka Perry, pressured to avoid taking sick time, dies alone and crying out for help in a Walmart bathroom. Her family and colleagues demand better sick leave policies — and protections from workplace violence. Walmart stores have been the scene of more than 1,100 shooting incidents since 2014, resulting in over 300 deaths.

Topics Commercial Lines Business Insurance

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