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California company fined for deadly workplace accident

Back in 2009, a man working at a large retailer's distribution center here in southern California was killed. The deadly workplace accident occurred when the man fell into a machine that bales and compacts cardboard. Recently, it was announced that the company will be paying a $950,000 fine in lieu of criminal prosecution for the man's death, and will make sure all of its machines are working properly and make sure that the safeguards for the machines are in place. The company also waived its right to appeal the decision.

It was discovered during the investigation that the man's death could have been prevented. Apparently, the guard was missing from the opening he fell through. Making matters worse was the fact that the machine was altered to provide for continuous, uninterrupted operation. These two factors were determined to cause the 65-year-old man to be decapitated and crushed by the machine.

Every worker in California is entitled to a safe work environment. For those who work with large compactors such as the one that killed this man -- or any other large equipment for that matter -- if it does not meet required safety standards, workers have the right to complain. If the deficiencies are not corrected, a complaint may be made outside the company to an agency such as Cal/OSHA.

Of course, even when an employer does everything possible to protect its employees, a workplace accident can still occur. In that case, workers' compensation benefits are available to an injured worker or his or her family in the case of death. These benefits can cover medical costs and other medical related expenses and income lost during recovery. Surviving family members may obtain benefits to help cover the cost of a funeral and burial, along with a compensation package for the loss of the victim's income.

Source: safety.blr.com, "Retailer to pay nearly $1M following compactor fatality. Are your employees at risk?", , Aug. 21, 2014

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