When an employee gets seriously injured on the job, one would expect that his or her employer would take action to prevent any other employee from suffering the same injury.
Unfortunately, that didn’t happen at A-Brite Planing, a company founded in Cleveland, Ohio. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), one of the company’s workers was seriously burned after falling into an acid-etching tank. Weeks later, inspectors found other workers climbing atop the same tanks. Nothing had been changed to increase safety.
As a result, OSHA cited the company for one willful and eight serious safety and health violations on September 9, 2016. Proposed penalties total $256,545.
Employees Suffer Chemical Burns at A-Brite Planing
Chemical burns are serious and debilitating injuries. If the skin or eyes come into contact with strong acids, alkaloids, or other corrosive or caustic materials, the result is often deep tissue damage that requires multiple treatments.
At A-Brite, for example, a 40-year-old machine operator was allegedly cleaning a jam from a conveyor arm above an acid tank when he fell. The tank was heated to more than 170 degrees, and also contained corrosive acid. He has had to go through extensive skin grafts to treat his left foot.
After the accident, federal investigators visited the plant, and found that other workers were climbing atop the same tanks without protection to help prevent a fall, and without adequate personal equipment to protect them from chemical burns.
“Allowing workers to continue climbing on top of acid tanks after knowing an employee suffered a third-degree chemical burn when he fell into a tank is unconscionable,” said Howard Eberts, area director of OSHA’s Cleveland office.
Worse, OSHA’s investigation revealed that at least seven employees had fallen while clearing machine jams over the last five years. OSHA also found other problems. A-Brite had allegedly failed to report the injury to the machine operator, for example, as they were required to. They also failed to implement machine safety procedures to protect workers from operating parts during service and maintenance.
These injuries were preventable, OSHA stated, if A-Brite had simply followed basic safety procedures. OSHA encouraged the company to take immediate action to improve safety and protect their workers.
Employers Responsible for Training Employees on Chemical Hazards
In addition to causing chemical burns, dangerous chemicals can also cause burning eyes, sore throat, coughing, trouble breathing and wheezing. In severe cases, they can cause lung damage.
Employers are responsible for providing a safe workplace for their employees. First, they are supposed to be sure employees have the appropriate training for dealing with hazardous chemicals. They are also to be trained on any machinery, chemicals, or other work site hazards specific to their job.
In addition to any initial training, employers are also responsible for providing refresher training to regularly update employees on safety topics, for providing personal protective equipment and respiratory protection, and for making sure machines have the appropriate guards to help prevent falls.
Exclusively focused on representing plaintiffs, especially in mass tort litigation, Eric Chaffin prides himself on providing unsurpassed professional legal services in pursuit of the specific goals of his clients and their families. Both his work and his cases have been featured in the national press, including on ABC’s Good Morning America.