Massachusetts Worker’s Death Leads to Fines for New Bedford Fish Processing Plant

Six months after the death of a worker in a New Bedford processing plant, his employer has been ordered to pay a hefty fine. Sea Watch International Ltd. was cited for seven serious safety violations following the deadly Massachusetts work accident. The company must now pay a more than $35,000 fine.

The worker, Victor Gerena, was cleaning a shellfish-shucking machine when he got “entangled” in a rotary turbine engine at around 1:30am on the night shift in January. The fire department spent close to an hour freeing him.

Gerena was pronounced dead at the accident scene. He worked with Sea Watch for almost two decades. Following his death, the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health called on all industries using big machines to make sure that they have the proper protections in place to protect workers from injuries and deaths on the job. Brenda Gordon of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration said that if the company had executed necessary safety practices, Gerena’s death could have been prevented.

Gerena’s New Bedford worker death happened nearly three years after the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspected the plant. Back then it found serious safety violations, including poor emergency training and inadequate respiratory protections. After remedying the violations, a follow-up inspection in 2012 determined that Sea Watch was in total compliance with OSHA standards.

Following Gerena’s fatal accident, however, Sea Watch was cited for not implementing the basic safety procedures to protect machine servicing workers, incomplete tagout/lockout procedures, failure to conduct periodic inspections of procedures, and failure to train employees in tagout/lockout procedures. OSHA said that plant workers were exposed to fall hazards and improperly trained in the latest chemical hazard communication methods.

The government agency also cited Workforce Unlimited Inc., a temporary employment company that provides temporary workers to Sea Watch’s New Bedford plant, for three workplace violations. It considers the company a joint employer because it had an on-sight supervisor at the facility.

Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation
Typically, workers who are injured on the job or families whose loved one died in a work accident cannot sue their employer for personal injury. They are, however, entitled to Massachusetts workers’ compensation. Unfortunately, this is not always a straightforward procedure. The employer or the company’s insurer may dispute the claim or seek to delay payment.

At Altman & Altman, LLP, our Boston workers’ compensation lawyers are here to help injured workers and their family receive the benefits they are owed, including: payment of all related medical costs, lost wages, (temporary or permanent) disability benefits, cash benefits for permanent scarring and body function loss, and vocational rehabilitation. The family of a deceased worker is also entitled to certain benefits.

Contact our Massachusetts worker injury law firm today.

Man dies in shucking machine accident at New Bedford seafood plant,, January 17, 2014

Worker’s death was preventable, OSHA says, SouthCoast Today, June 11, 2014

Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health

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Fatal Hazmat Incident Reported at MA Elementary School, Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog, July 7, 2014

I’ve Just Been in Uber Accident, What do I do?, Boston Car Accident Lawyer Blog, July 16, 2014

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