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April rail car deaths investigation leads to $963,000 penalties

Workers in New York and other states are entitled to workplace environments that will not pose injury threats. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration does not take kindly to employers who disregard workers' safety. This was clearly demonstrated in the massive penalties it proposed after completing an accident investigation at a rail car cleaning facility in another state.

The investigation followed an April explosion that claimed the lives of two workers. OSHA found that despite the result of an air quality check of the rail car showing dangerous conditions, two workers were sent to work in the rail car moments later. They were reportedly not provided with safety equipment to allow emergency retrieval, nor were they issued with properly fitted respiratory equipment. The already dangerous air quality was apparently not monitored while the workers were in the rail car.

A sudden explosion ripped off the escape ladder, leaving one worker trapped inside the rail car to die. The second worker died when he was blasted off the top of the rail car, where he was positioned at the time of the explosion. A third worker reportedly suffered injuries. OSHA proposed penalties to the value of $963,000 for no less than 33 safety violations, of which seven were classified as egregious willful. The company was also added to OSHA's program for severe violators.

Although OSHA's accident investigation and enforcement actions in New York and elsewhere may ultimately lead to safer workplace environments for some workers, some company owners will continue to choose profits over worker safety. Losing a loved one in a workplace accident can devastate a family, and while no amount of money can ever fill that void, workers' compensation death benefits may provide some financial relief. Covered dependents are entitled to compensation for funeral and burial expenses along with a financial package to provide coverage for lost wages.

Source: journalstar.com, "OSHA proposes biggest fine in Nebraska history", Richard Piersol, Oct. 14, 2015

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