Four deaths in three weeks: what to know about workplace safety in Western New York

Posted at 5:41 PM, Jul 13, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-13 17:42:02-04

Since June 25, four people have died in three separate accidents in the workplace. While those incidents are still being investigated and it is not clear what led to the tragedies, the timing has brought workplace safety into the spotlight.

Two men died in Lockport on June 25 when several slabs of Corian fell on them at XPO Logisitics. On Tuesday, a worker for YRC Freight died at a farm in Eden when 3,700 pounds of scaffolding fell on him. A contractor for Spectrum died Wednesday when he came in contact with a primary electric line in Yorkshire.

The Western New York Council on Occupational Safety and Health (WNYCOSH) is a non-profit that works to educate employees about their rights and employers about what they should be doing to ensure a safe workplace.

Germain Harnden, the council's executive director, said the most important thing is for workers to understand their rights under the law.

"I think it's all about learning, getting properly trained, knowing what your rights are [and] not being afraid to ask for information," she said.

Here are a few tips from WNYCOSH to keep in mind. For more information and resources, click here to visit its website.

The law requires employers to do a number of things to promote a safe workplace:

  • Indicate any hazards in the workplace and train employees how to safely work with or around them.
  • Provide appropriate safety equipment to employees and train them on the proper use.
  • Post OSHA 300 log annually which documents any workplace accidents or injuries.
  • OSHA enforces a "general duty clause" which requires employers to provide a healthy and safe workplace to all employees.

The law also allows employees access, by request, to certain information from their employers:

  • Results of any safety tests administered in the workplace (air quality or noise monitoring tests, for example).
  • Safety data sheets kept by the employer (for example, health hazard information about different chemicals on the property).

Workers always have the right to request an inspection from OSHA if they suspect a violation, although OSHA determines whether or not the request is valid enough to follow through.

"It takes employer commitment," Harnden said. "You're not going to have a safe workplace unless your employer is committed to having a sound health and safety program."

If a family member has been killed or seriously injured in the workplace, click here to read WNYCOSH's Family Resource Guide.

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