Healy Scanlon Law Firm

Cleaning company cited for Chicago work-related deaths

There are many professional industries in which workers know they are at a higher risk for injury or death. Many of these higher-risk jobs are in the manufacturing, construction, mining and industrial industries right here in Illinois and the greater Chicago area. When there is a report of Chicago work-related deaths, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration will generally conduct an investigation.

No job should cost an individual's life. This is what OSHA recently reminded employers of in its report in connection to the death of a worker in an industrial cleaning company. According to the report, a 37-year-old man was inside a 40- to 50-foot tall tank and cleaning it when the incident occurred. OSHA pointed out that the worker succumbed to a high concentration of chemical vapors in the tank and fell from his ladder to his death.

OSHA conducted an investigation regarding the work-related death and cited Phoenix Industrial Cleaning, the man's employer, with 28 serious safety violations. Eighteen of the violations were a result of the company failing to abide by standards for working in confined spaces. The company also failed to provide proper testing and monitoring equipment for air hazards.

Five of the safety violations come from failure to protect workers against the hazards imposed by the chemicals they encounter in their work, like proper respiratory protection. Apparently, the victim was wearing respiratory gear at the time of the incident but the equipment was not the right kind for the environment in which he was working. The worker also was not wearing a harness to prevent him from falling. These citations resulted in up to $77,200 in fines for the cleaning company.

Ensuring workplace safety is a primary duty of employers. Work-related deaths may result from construction accidents, unsafe ladders and scaffolding as well as falls from heights. Failure to address workplace safety can lead to fines and even civil or criminal liability.

Families who have lost a loved one due to a workplace accident may be entitled to compensation. The compensation may ease the burden of funeral expenses, loss of companionship and loss of financial support. The immediate family may also be compensated through a wrongful death lawsuit, particularly if the company's negligence contributed to the work-related death.

Source: Daily Herald, "OSHA cites contractor in Wheeling tank death," Doug T. Graham, May 13, 2013

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