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Temporary workers face greater risk of injury

On Feb. 25, 2013, a temporary worker at a sugar plant in Pennsylvania was killed when he slipped into a hopper full of sugar. He was trying to get rid of clumps when the accident occurred. Thirteen days before the incident, the plant removed a screen designed for worker safety because it was believed to make production slower.

The plant had faced previous fines from OSHA for not properly training temporary workers. Though OSHA did fine the plant $25,855 for the most recent accident, the amount was later reduced to $18,098, and it did not find that the removal of the screen was a willful violation, a classification that could subject the company to higher penalties.

A United States senator concerned with the welfare of temporary workers has written to OSHA to express concern about impediments to its ability to properly protect temp workers. In his letter, the senator stated that the number of accidents and deaths involving temporary workers is unacceptable. Temporary workers tend to face more risk of workplace injury or death than permanent workers. OSHA's ability to regulate those workers is somewhat limited because it cannot shut down businesses, and its ability to prosecute employers is limited.

The families of workers who have been killed on the job may face a number of financial stresses. In some cases, a worker brings in income to support the household, and the loss of those funds might be exacerbated by costs associated with burial and funeral services. OSHA fines, which serve to penalize the business and create a safer work environment, do not directly benefit families of victims. However, a family facing financial hardship after a death may benefit from talking to a lawyer who has experience with workers' compensation claims. A lawyer may be able to help the family pursue benefits from an employer's insurance provider, which can help cover costs associated with the death.

Source: Pro Publica, "Senator Asks OSHA About Temp Worker Buried Alive In Sugar", Michael Grabell, July 10, 2014

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