For employees in commercial and manufacturing industries, it is often difficult to know whether one’s work setting is safe from potentially life-threatening hazards. Failure of a company to follow industry safety guidelines or follow the warnings of safety inspectors can lead to tragedy. According to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration, 4,679 workers were killed on the job in 2014, or almost 90 people every week. Additionally, in 2014 private industry employers reported 3.0 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses. Among the 2.8 million injuries that occurred, many could have been prevented by stricter adherence to OSHA safety guidelines and aggressive legal action.
At its manufacturing plant in North Arlington, for example, the company Sterling Seating will have to pay more than $123,000 in penalties and correct dangerous conditions for workers. This settlement with OSHA was reached after Sterling Seating was issued 42 citations, including 15 repeat citations that were issued in July 2015. Agency investigators found, among other things, that the company had exposed workers to electrical, fire, and chemical hazards. Furthermore, employers at the plant had failed to train employees about the effects of hazardous chemicals used in the workplace such as methylene chloride, combustible dust and formaldehyde. Following the settlement, Sterling will need to retain a qualified third-party safety and health consultant to assess workplace safety, as well as install a ventilation system to reduce methylene chloride concentrations within the plant.
According to Steven Cohen, Chairman of the Workers’ Compensation Department of Davis, Saperstein & Salomon P.C., Sterling Seating may also face the possibility of additional lawsuits if workers come forward with injuries they sustained due to these safety hazards. Cohen goes on to say, “Fortunately for these workers, they are protected financially by New Jersey’s favorable Workers’ Compensation laws for any injuries they may have suffered while on the job.”
Actions taken to eliminate workplace safety hazards are very often too late. When workers have been exposed to dangerous working conditions, they should report their observations immediately in order to prevent injury or illness. Providing one’s services to an employer should not mean risking one’s life in the process.