A national worker safety watchdog group has announced its annual list naming the companies it says put workers and communities in danger with their unsafe workplace practices.
The list, compiled by the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH) in observance of Workers’ Memorial Week, names 12 employers that the group calls “The Dirty Dozen” for exposing their workers to injury, illness, and death.
“It’s heartbreaking to see workers lose their lives when we know these tragedies could have been prevented,” said Marcy Goldstein-Gelb, co-executive director of National COSH. “Time and again, employers are warned about unsafe conditions. When companies fail to correct safety hazards, it is workers who pay the ultimate price.”
According to National COSH, workplace deaths in the U.S. are on the rise. The latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows there were 5,190 deaths from workplace accidents in 2016 – an increase of seven percent from 2015 and a 12 percent increase since 2012.
One major cause for the rise in U.S. worker deaths is the federal government’s weakened emphasis on workplace safety. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has shrunk significantly under the Trump Administration, escalating concerns that the agency is effectively being rendered ineffective and that U.S. workers face an increasing risk of injury and death on the job.
According to National COSH, OSHA’s budget has declined by 12 percent since 2012 and the agency has 132 fewer employees. In fact, OSHA has fewer than a thousand inspectors on its workforce. These inspectors are charged with ensuring that every company, workplace, and job site in the U.S. is in compliance with federal safety regulations – clearly an impossible task given the agency’s limited resources.
OSHA and other safety agencies, including the National Institutes for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), were targeted for further budget cuts in FY 2018, along with the elimination of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board and Susan Harwood Training grants. Harwood grants assist unions, COSH groups, employer associations, and other non-profits in providing training to vulnerable workers.
“We need more resources for research, training and enforcement, not less,” said Goldstein-Gelb. “Otherwise, employers like the Dirty Dozen get the message that it’s okay to cut corners on workplace safety. It’s not okay – ever – when a worker doesn’t come home to his or her family.”
According to the National COSH, the most unsafe employers in the U.S. for 2018 are:
Amazon (Seattle, Washington) Seven workers killed at Amazon warehouses since 2013, including three workers within five weeks at three separate locations in 2017.
Case Farms (Troutman, North Carolina) 74 OSHA violations per 1,000 employees – more than four times higher than any other poultry company.
Dine Brands Global, Inc./ IHOP and Applebee’s (Glendale, California) Demands for sex, groping, threats of violence against workers. More than 60 complaints about sexual and harassment and abuse.
JK Excavating (Mason, Ohio) 25-year-old Zachary Hess, buried alive in December 2017. The company was previously cited three times by OSHA for failure to protect workers from trench collapse.
Lowe’s Home Improvement (Mooresville, North Carolina) 56 U.S. deaths are linked to exposure to paint strippers containing methylene chloride, including 17 workers who died while refinishing bathtubs. The retail giant still sells products with this deadly substance, despite appeals from workers, consumers and families.
Lynnway Auto Auction (Billerica, Massachusetts) Five dead in preventable auto crash, including a 37-year-old mom working her first day on the job. Lynnway was cited by OSHA and warned of vehicle safety hazards in 2014.
New York and Atlantic Railway (New York, New York) Workers suffer amputation, brain injury and impaired vision. Immigrant workers face racial slurs and other discrimination, and do not have proper safety training or equipment.
Patterson UTI Energy (Houston, Texas) Five workers dead in an explosion in Quinton, Oklahoma. 110 OSHA violations and 13 workers dead in the past decade.
Sarbanand Farms (Sumas, Washington) Farm worker dies after complaining of headaches. 70 co-workers go on strike to protest unsafe conditions and are immediately fired, then evicted from company housing.
Tesla Motors (Fremont, California) Recordable injuries are 31 percent higher than industry average; serious injuries are 83 percent higher. Company claims recent improvement in injury rates, but CAL/OSHA now investigating reports that the company failed to report serious injuries.
Verla International (New Windsor, New York) Explosion kills a worker at cosmetics plant. Company previously cited for poor handling of chemicals that led to deadly blaze; safety consultant says disaster was “easily preventable.”
Waste Management (Houston, Texas) 23-year-old worker killed at a recycling facility. Company failed to lockout/tagout machinery during repairs.