A man working at International Salt near Philadelphia was crushed to death under a 100-foot pile of rock salt. The man was apparently moving the salt at one of the company’s salt storage facilities in preparation for the most recent winter storm, the “Polar Vortex.” While moving the salt, a portion of the giant 100-foot salt pile gave way, creating a small landslide that buried the man inside his machine. Even though rescue operations started quickly, the man is believed to have suffocated under the salt pile. Obviously, there will be a workplace investigation to determine the exact cause of the piles collapse, but there is currently no explanation.
Need For Workplace Safety
Washington State Department of Labor and Industry (L&I) and the Occupational Safety and Health Agency (OSHA) regulate, investigate, enforce, and encourage workplace safety. For the most part,
Washington employers are subject to L&I regulations since OSHA allows states to run their own safety programs. Washington’s L&I handles workers’ compensation claims and implements Washington’s
safety laws. Obviously, employees expect their workplace to be a safe place, but in the introduction to the Washington Industrial Safety and Health Act (WISHA), reality is not quite there. According to the introduction, an average of two people in Washington die from job-related incidents each week. On top of the roughly 100 job-related deaths, “more than 250,000 workers’ compensation claims are accepted” each year. Health costs, personnel costs, and business costs like workers’ compensation, new hire training or retraining, and loss of production add significantly to the already shocking numbers in WISHA’s introduction. Workplace safety is still a work in progress.
Workplace Safety Two-Way Street
There are obvious costs on both sides for workplace injuries and deaths. As such, it is in both the employer and employee’s interest to identify and maintain or improve workplace safety. Washington’s L&I has created core rules for safety and health, guidelines for safety training and implementation, and even has an idea bank for employers to search for new ways to reduce workplace hazards. Employers also have the benefit of their own employee handbooks which outline proper employee behavior while at work, and set forth the employers established safety guidelines and procedures. However, employers are not always on-site and do not always see the existing or potential safety hazards. For this reason, employees also have a responsibility to raise concerns and suggest better ways to increase workplace safety. Additionally, it is the employee’s responsibility to follow existing safety guidelines. It is unclear whether the salt facility employee was
following procedure when the collapse occurred, but the upcoming investigation will likely lead to additional safety measures.
Workplace safety is very important. If you have suffered from a workplace injury or have raised issue with workplace safety standards and suffered retaliation because of it, contacting an experienced Washington employment law attorney can help.