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Occupational injuries: Another death investigated at cooperative

A Colorado-based farmer's cooperative was put on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's Severe Violator Enforcement Program in 2013. That followed an inspection during which 17 safety and health violations were identified. Being labeled as a severe violator authorizes OSHA to inspect the facilities at any time, without prior notice, in an effort to put a stop to occupational injuries.

Sadly, some employers disregard such serious enforcement against their companies, as is evident at one of the cooperative's facilities where another death of a 28-year-old worker was caused by an unprotected floor opening in Jan. 2014. Heavy fines were issued, but even this did not bring compliance. In Aug 2014, a worker suffered severe injuries when a load of sugar fell on his head. After that incident, the cooperative undertook to address safety issues, and the fine was reduced.

However, OSHA has recently completed yet another investigation into a fatality at one of the cooperative's facilities. An area director of OSHA said this is particularly frustrating because another death was caused, and the safety violations that were identified were repeats of what was cited before. The latest investigation followed the death of a 34-year-old foreman at the pulp drying plant who -- according to his father -- reported several concerns about safety issues in the days before his death.

Such disregard for workers' safety is unacceptable, and Colorado workers should not have to put their lives on the line to earn a living. Any workers who have suffered occupational injuries -- or those who have lost loved ones in workplace accidents -- may find comfort in knowing that financial assistance is available. The workers' compensation insurance system provides benefits for injured workers that will cover medical expenses and lost income. Death benefits are typically available for the families of deceased workers to cover funeral and burial costs along with a financial package as compensation for a portion of the loved one's lost income.

Source: billingsgazette.com, "OSHA orders $116,000 in fines against Western Sugar after worker's death", Jordon Niedermeier, April 6, 2016

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