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Unguarded conveyor belt blamed for fatal workplace injury

Colorado workers who perform their duties at or in the vicinity of mechanical handling equipment such as conveyor belts may not be adequately informed about the safety hazards to which they are exposed. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration prescribes that employers are responsible for informing workers of potential workplace injury hazards. In addition, full compliance is required by safety guidelines relating to worker protection in the form of lockouts or tagouts, signals, signs and machine guarding.

The owners of a meatpacking facility in Colorado recently received citations and fines for violating safety rules that led to the June death of a worker. One citation was a repeat violation. Had the company taken action after the previous incident, this fatality may have been avoided. The accident reportedly involved a 54-year-old worker who worked in the vicinity of a conveyor belt that lacked safety guards. OSHA reports that the man's hair got caught in the moving parts of the safety belt, and he was dragged into the machine.

OSHA fined the company for failing to install guards that would protect workers from the working parts of the equipment at the plant. It was also found that the company failed to provide protection for maintenance workers by proper control of the energy sources that powered the equipment. In response, the company committed to resolving these issues. 

Colorado families who have lost a loved one after a workplace injury may face many challenges. In addition to the high costs of end-of-life arrangements, they will have to cope without the income of the deceased worker. They will be entitled to claim death benefits through the workers' compensation insurance fund. Death benefits usually include compensation for a funeral and burial, along with a financial package to assist the surviving spouse and other dependents.

Source: claimsjournal.com, "Colorado Meatpacking Plant Fined $45K for Worker Death", Dec. 16, 2014

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