Hazardous workplace conditions risk the lives of workers

Employers are obligated to provide a safe work environment for their employees. When companies fail to do so, workers can end up seriously injured or dead.

Employers have a responsibility to utilize required safety practices and stay in compliance with the law in order to keep their workers safe on-the-job. When companies fail to follow through on certain essential safety guidelines, however, workers' can become seriously injured and even killed at the workplace.

Safety violations take lives

A 62-year-old worker at a California canning plant lost his life in an on-the-job incident. He was inside an industrial-sized pressure cooker making a standard repair when the door was shut behind him and the cooker was turned on. According to the Claims Journal, co-workers were unaware that he was inside the oven, and filled it full of tuna before closing the door and turning the temperature up to 270-degrees. Sadly, the father of six needlessly lost his life. Upon further investigation, officers found that the plant was not in compliance with mandatory safety guidelines that are imposed by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration. In addition to several other violations, the company failed to complete a yearly audit of the equipment, which is designed to ensure that the equipment is updated and safe to use.

The payout

Although the unfortunate incident took place over three years ago, the company responsible for the man's death recently agreed to pay a $6 million settlement in the case, according to the LA Times. Some of the money will be used to purchase updated equipment, making the facility safer for workers. Approximately $1.5 million will be paid to the deceased worker's family, and the remaining will be used to pay penalties, court costs and fines. The former safety manager and the operations director of the plant were both charged with three counts of willfully violating OSHA rules, which is a felony in California.

As a way to reduce the likelihood of subsequent tragedies, the tuna company has installed new, updated ovens that are equipped with video cameras. Workers and managers are also required to complete a comprehensive safety training program.

Employer obligations

The California State Department of Industrial Relations states that employees are entitled to work in a safe and injury-free environment. If and when a worker does become injured on-the-job, they may be entitled to workers' compensation benefits. These benefits will cover any medical care that the injured worker may need to care for his or her injury. Depending on the circumstances of the case, the worker may be eligible for additional benefits through the program.

Getting your life back together

If you have been injured in a workplace accident, you may be suffering physically, emotionally and financially. It can be hard to make ends meet when you are recovering from an injury and are unable to return to work. Keep in mind that there are critical deadlines surrounding workers' compensation benefits, so it is important to contact a California attorney as soon as possible after an accident occurs.