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New Bedford Shellfish Processing Plant Fined after Worker’s Death

The United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration has fined New Bedford shellfish processing plant Sea Watch International as well as the temporary employment agency which supplied the plant’s workers, a total of $44,000 in safety violations following the death of an employee earlier this year.

The worker, Victor Gerena, 35, was an 18-year veteran of Sea Watch who had become entangled in a rotary turbine engine while cleaning jammed clams from a shucking machine, the Boston Globe reported. According to OSHA officials, the machine’s power had not been turned off-ultimately causing Gerena to become stuck in the machine. Such preventative measures as the “lock out tag out” should have been taken by Gerena and officials from OSHA alleged that the company had failed to properly train the man of this safety procedure.

In total, the Maryland-based company was issued 11 violations by OSHA, including eight serious violations for workplace safety standards, equaling $35,410 in fines. $9,000 in fines were also issued to Rhode Island temp agency Workforce Unlimited, covering five violations-three of which were deemed serious by OSHA.

This is not the only time Sea Watch International, a major supplier of canned clams for 35 years, has been under scrutiny by OSHA. In 2011, the plant was inspected by officials who had discovered several serious safety violations, including inadequate emergency training for employees dealing with hazardous waste and insufficient respiratory protection for some workers. According to the Boston Globe, OSHA reported no “lock out tag out” violations were made at the time. Because of those violations in 2011, the company paid $4,675 in fines and ultimately mitigated the issues. A follow-up inspection in April 2012 found the company was in full compliance with OSHA standards.

Sadly, this is only another example of how inadequate training and non-compliance with safety standards in the workplace can lead to workers being injured or killed on the job. Recently, we reported that the Tribe hummus plant in Taunton, MA, was cited following the 2011 death of Daniel Collazo who like Gerena, was caught in a machinery for not using the “lock out tag out” safety procedure. Tribe was fined $500,000 by OSHA. According to the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health, Gerena’s death marks the twenty-second worker death caused by machinery in Massachusetts since 2000. The majority of these deaths were the direct result of inadequate machine guards and lack of other federally mandated safety measures, according to the coalition and the Boston Globe.

According to OSHA, it is the responsibility of each employer to ensure the safety of employees. This includes making sure that all employees are properly and adequately trained to do their jobs without hazard or compromising their own or co-workers’ safety, that the workplace environment is free of potential hazards that may cause injury, and that all equipment is properly working and maintained.

Experiencing any type of severe workplace injury or losing a loved one due to an accident in the workplace, is a life-altering event that can cause both emotional and physical stress that may inhibit you from returning to your normal life. If you or someone you love were a victim of a workplace injury or if your loved one was killed because of his or her employer’s negligence, call or email the law office of Altman & Altman to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced Massachusetts Worker Compensation Lawyers for a free initial consultation. For nearly 50 years, we have been helping clients recover workers’ compensation benefits, lost wages, medical expenses, and compensation for emotional pain and suffering. Our attorneys are available around the clock to assist you through each and every part of your case and to answer any and all of your questions.

Original article published by The Boston Globe.

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