Amazon, Lowe’s and Tesla are among the firms on a list of employers with unsafe workplaces published by a federation of labor, health and safety groups.
The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH) released its annual “The Dirty Dozen” employers of 2018 last week in observance of Workers’ Memorial Week, honoring workers who lost their lives on the job and those who have suffered workplace injuries and illnesses.
“It’s heartbreaking to see workers lose their lives when we know these tragedies could have been prevented,” said Marcy Goldstein-Gelb, co-executive director of National COSH. “Time and again, employers are warned about unsafe conditions. When companies fail to correct safety hazards, it is workers who pay the ultimate price.”
According to National COSH, the “dirty dozen” for 2018 and the reason they are under scrutiny are:
- Amazon – Seattle, Washington: Seven workers killed at Amazon warehouses since 2013 – including three workers within five weeks at three separate locations in 2017. (Amazon has pushed back. See reply below.)
- Case Farms – Troutman, North Carolina: 74 OSHA violations per 1,000 employees – more than four times higher than any other poultry firm.
- Dine Brands Global, Inc. (IHOP and Applebee’s) – Glendale, California: Demands for sex, groping, threats of violence against workers. More than 60 complaints about sexual and harassment and abuse.
- JK Excavating – Mason, Ohio: 25-year-old Zachary Hess, buried alive in December 2017. The company was previously cited three times by OSHA for failure to protect workers from trench collapse.
- Lowe’s Home Improvement – Mooresville, North Carolina: 56 U.S. deaths are linked to exposure to paint strippers containing methylene chloride, including 17 workers who died while refinishing bathtubs. The retail giant still sells products with this deadly substance, despite appeals from workers, consumers and families.
- LynnWay Auto Auction – Billerica, Massachusetts: Five dead in preventable auto crash – including a 37-year-old mom working her first day on the job. LynnWay was cited by OSHA and warned of vehicle safety hazards in 2014. (In April, the company agreed to pay $200,000 in OSHA penalties, add barriers and take other safety measures.)
- New York and Atlantic Railway – New York, New York: Workers suffer amputation, brain injury and impaired vision. Immigrants workers face racial slurs and other discrimination, and do not have proper safety training or equipment.
- Patterson UTI Energy – Houston, Texas: Five workers dead in an explosion in Quinton, Oklahoma. 110 OSHA violations and 13 workers dead in the past decade.
- Sarbanand Farms – Sumas, Washington: Farm worker dies after complaining of headaches. 70 co-workers go on strike to protest unsafe conditions and are immediately fired, then evicted from company housing.
- Tesla Motors – Fremont, California: Recordable injuries are 31% higher than industry average; serious injuries are 83% higher. Company claims recent improvement in injury rates, but CAL/OSHA now investigating reports that the company failed to report serious injuries.
- Verla International – New Windsor, New York: Explosion kills a worker at cosmetics plant. Company previously cited for poor handling of chemicals that led to deadly blaze; safety consultant says disaster was “easily preventable.”
- Waste Management – Houston, Texas: 23-year-old worker killed at a recycling facility. Company failed to lockout/tagout machinery during repairs.
Workplace deaths in the U.S. are on the rise. According to the latest information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 5,190 deaths from workplace trauma in 2016, an increase of seven percent from 2015 and a 12 percent increase since 2012.
In reply to the listing, Melanie Etches, PR manager for Amazon out of London, emailed Insurance Journal to tout the company’s workplace safety program. She said the company integrates safety metrics and audits into operational meetings, new hire orientation, process training and new process development.
Her reply in defense of Amazon continued:
“We expect our leadership to continually improve the safety results of their operations by reducing physical risk through the design of processes, equipment and work areas, applying high standards of safety performance each day, improving capabilities through training and coaching using rigorous management reporting systems to track and audit their progress. We have also launched the Safety Leadership Index across our US operations where every associate is surveyed through our Connections Program answering a series of questions each month to measure the perception of safety in their facility. Each of these safety programs and measures apply to everyone working in our facilities — full time, part time, seasonal, and temporary. While any serious incident is one too many, we learn and improve our programs working to prevent future incidents.”
National COSH has criticized cuts in the budgets for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Institutes for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). It has also criticized the Trump Administration proposals to eliminate the U.S. Chemical Safety Board and federal grants to assist unions, COSH groups and other non-profits in providing training to workers.
“We need more resources for research, training and enforcement, not less,” said Goldstein-Gelb. “Otherwise, employers like the Dirty Dozen get the message that it’s okay to cut corners on workplace safety. It’s not okay– ever – when a worker doesn’t come home to his or her family.”
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