Pennsylvania Sugar Plant Worker’s Death Reveals Workplace Safety Problems


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Last year, a temporary worker at a sugar processing/distribution plant died after he was buried by a mound of sugar. The accident occurred in Fairless Hills, Pennsylvania, about 30 miles outside of Philadelphia.

The worker was buried alive when he was digging out clumps of sugar. Due to the distribution method, the hopper would get clogged with clumps of sugar which required manual extraction. Investigation revealed that 13 days prior to this accident, a safety screen which prevented workers from being buried, was removed due to concerns about slower production. With the screen in place, clumps occurred every 30-40 min whereas without the screen, clumps occurred 2-3 times per day.

Related: Warehouse & Storage Facility Accidents

The troubling thing is that after the screen was removed, another worker was almost buried alive performing the same work. However, that worker was saved just in time.

Since the worker’s death, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has investigated workplace safety issues related to temp workers, and with good reason. Over the last several years, more and more businesses are turning to temp workers as a source of cheap labor that requires little oversight.

The problem is that many temp workers are untrained and inexperienced. Many are non-English speakers who understand very little about the specific workplace safety concerns of a given job.

Of course, workplaces like factories and plants have to comply with OSHA, the reality is that OSHA has little ability to enforce standards. There is no criminal investigation power, only the power to levy fines, some of which are minimal considering the incredible profits at stake ($100,000s; $1,000,000s).

Univision and ProPublica performed undercover research of the temp work industry in this country, and the results are astounding. One of the undercover workers was asked to sign off on a safety quiz which was already filled out. Safety forms were provided in English. It’s no wonder that temp workers suffer an alarming number of work accidents and injuries.

Related: Top Work Accident Hazards in 2013 & OSHA Regulations

Rights of Injured Workers in Pennsylvania.

Workers who are injured in these kinds of accidents may have legal rights to financial compensation. Claims may often be made against non-employer companies and machinery companies. In addition, machinery service companies may also be held liable.

Machinery companies may be held liable for manufacturing or selling a defective product, and machinery service companies may be liable for negligence in servicing a machine. Therefore, it is important for injured workers to speak to a work accident lawyer as soon as possible.

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