Goodwill had been warned multiple times both verbally and by letter for hazardous working conditions at an outlet store it operated in California, particularly regarding the use of dangerous equipment. The warnings were ignored, and last September, a 26-year-old employee at the store was killed in a gruesome accident.
Cal-OSHA, the workplace safety agency for the state, has now fined Goodwill Industries of Sacramento Valley & Northern Nevada more than $100,000 for six significant safety violations.
The Sacramento Bee reports that Dave Goudie, a commercial driver and employee of Goodwill on the waste management team at the time of the accident, had an “intuitive sense of urgency” several weeks prior to the fatal accident. He told the news outlet he began verbally expressing complaints about what he observed as the hazardous working conditions at the facility, pointing out the risks to untrained employees. On Aug. 25, Goudie wrote a memo to his supervisors titled “Employee Workplace Safety Hazard Notification,” detailing the dangers he observed.
“Based on my personal observations, most employees now operating compactors at each plant have not received the required training,” the memo stated. “This exposes Goodwill Industries to fines in the tens of thousands of dollars from Cal-OSHA and, should an employee become injured or killed as a result of this lack of training, civil damages could climb into the millions. All of that massive liability exposure is completely UNNECESSARY if the required training is made mandatory by company leadership and reporting supervisors are held accountable for failures to do so,” he wrote.
Five weeks later, Abraham Garza, 26, died when his head was crushed by the very equipment Goudie warned the company about.
Goudie had been checking the equipment’s alignment when Garza appeared, asking to help. They had been acquainted merely minutes. Goudie asked Garza to check the alignment on the opposite side of the compactor. Goudie told the Sacramento Bee about the horror he felt when he witnessed Garza stick his head between the bin and compactor a second before the truck’s driver released the cable securing the bin.
“I had to watch this poor kid’s head get crushed,” Goudie told the publication, and said he grieved even further after learning that Garza had a 7-year-old child. “It was very traumatic. As a father myself, I was outraged. On top of that, I had to witness the very thing I’d been dogging them about.”
Cal-OSHA stated in its report, “None of the authorized employees including (Garza) were provided training in the safe operation of the compactors at the front and back loading dock areas.”
Goodwill claims nothing was its fault, and even coldly blames Goudie for the death of Garza. “We did our own investigation and determined that this employee was negligent in the situation, and he was terminated,” Goodwill spokeswoman Karen McClaflin told the Sacramento Bee. “Goodwill definitely grieves over the tragedy of this accident, but this was caused by the negligence of one employee.”
Goodwill has appealed the citations, saying “we operate very safely and efficiently here.”
“We recognize the seriousness of the action, but we don’t believe we deserve the citations that came along with it,” McClaflin defends.
Goudie believes being terminated and banned from the premises was a retaliation for his complaints, saying the company operates under the culture of “profits over people.”
Source: The Sacramento Bee