The Bollinger Law Firm, P.C.

Focus on workplace hazards to reduce industrial accidents

In order to avoid work accidents, North Carolina employers may employ various techniques to promote safety in their workplaces. Where they fail to do so and workplace injuries take place, not only can an employee file for a workers' compensation claim, but the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) can investigate the accident and may hold the company responsible for its negligence. A recent investigation into an industrial accident at a prominent packaging company where there have been five accidental deaths in the last five years has now led to the levying of fines of almost $200,000 against the company.

According to OSHA, the company was fined for 30 safety violations, all stemming from the latest accident in which an industrial worker was severely burned in the process of trying to relight a steam boiler. The company was previously fined in 2008 when another accident resulted in the death of three workers.

According to the international vice president of the United Steelworkers, the paper industry errs by focusing on behavior-based safety rather than focusing on processes and hazards that lead to workplace injuries. By concentrating on behavior-based safety, authorities try to control workplace accidents by regulating behavior-employers aim to empower employees to take control of their own safety. But this strategy may end up completely bypassing hazards that are inevitably involved in workplace accidents. In fact, some detractors go as far as to say that behavior-based safety programs blame employees rather than focus on the actual risks present in the workplace.

Companies should try to focus on not only creating a safe working environment by educating employees about the dangers inherent in their workspace, but also try to reduce the number of hazards on the job so that workplace injuries are reduced and workers can complete their tasks safely.

Source: Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel, "OSHA cites Packaging Corporation of America for safety violations," Rick Romell, Sept. 5, 2013

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