Federal and state workplace safety laws are meant to ensure that every workplace is reasonably safe. Nevertheless, many workers face unreasonable hazards in their workplaces, and many are injured and even killed every year in Illinois.
One man, 48, was inspecting a tanker-trailer at B&R Repair Inc. in Lemont last March. Although tanker-trailers often contain hazardous chemicals, B&R provided the man with no personal protective equipment and performed no real review of the potential danger. The man was quickly overcome with exposure to bleach and chlorine gas.
He was found unconscious, but B&R failed to follow its own policies in regard to getting emergency services to the location. The worker later died of his injuries.
Working inside tanker-trailers is highly regulated
OSHA regulates worker access to confined spaces like the insides of tanker-trailers. Workers must be protected from the atmospheric hazards of confined spaces. Companies that work in confined spaces need to create a confined space program and ensure that employees fill out a special permit before they are allowed to enter the confined space.
In this case, B&R Repair allegedly allowed the inspection worker – and then the rescue workers – into the tanker-trailer without following a confined space plan or filling out the permit. That put all of the workers at risk of death.
Workers are at risk from employers failing to follow safety regulations
“In recent years, OSHA investigated instances in which workers suffered tragic injuries because employers failed to follow appropriate procedures for ensuring healthy atmospheric conditions inside a confined space and use of adequate respiratory protection before allowing workers to enter tanks,” explained an OSHA area director.
Indeed, last year, OSHA’s Chicago regional office implemented a regional emphasis program about the risks associated with cleaning tanks.
B&R Repair was cited for two willful and 10 serious violations for this incident. OSHA proposes penalties of $326,306. The company has 15 days to comply with OSHA’s recommendations and pay the fines, or to dispute these findings.
Illinois offers workplace death benefits regardless of OSHA’s findings
This tragedy could have been avoided, if what OSHA says is true. Employers simply do not have the right to put their workers at risk of serious injury or death.
Although no amount of money can make up for the death of a loved one, Illinois does offer death benefits to surviving family members. These benefits do not depend on a finding that the employer was at fault. It is enough for the death to be job-related.
Workers’ compensation death benefits in Illinois include payment of final medical expenses, up to $8,000 of funeral and burial expenses, and about 66% of the deceased worker’s average weekly wages.