Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.

Pennsylvania families are due benefits for work-related deaths

With some exceptions, many Pennsylvania employees are insured by employers for at-work injuries, illnesses and deaths. Most employers are required to maintain workers' compensation coverage so injured workers and their families are assured monetary relief. The benefits cover medical costs, lost wages and – in case of a workplace fatality – funeral expenses.

In a specific case, a 28-year-old man died in 2011. The fatality occurred six months after he took a job at a New England factory, Tribe Mediterranean Foods. The $12-an-hour worker was assigned to clean a large machine that blended hummus. The man's arm and head became caught in the turning screws of the machine and, although co-workers rushed to help him, the worker died before he reached a hospital.

Two years before the incident, Tribe had been called into question by federal safety inspectors at one of its other plants. The company's owner, a subsidiary of Nestle SA, was fined $9,500. One of the violations involved the lack of "lock out/tag out" training, which instructs employees to switch off industrial machines before cleaning them.

The company was warned failing to train workers to clean safely posed an "extreme risk" that was likely to cause a fatality within a year. Tribe passed all subsequent inspections, until the Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigated the factory worker's death. Tribe's owner complained the company didn't have the resources to focus on safety.

Federal inspectors never determined how the factory worker died. It was unclear whether the man was cleaning the hummus machine at the time or fell due to a slippery floor. OSHA found 18 violations at Tribe, including three claiming the company "willfully ignored" certain safety standards. The company was fined $540,000.

Most employers often cannot be sued for employee injuries because they provide workers' compensation insurance. However, families of employees who die at work might be entitled to benefits. An attorney can assist with the recovery of all available compensation.

Source: ProPublica, "Hummus Maker Warned of ‘Extreme Safety Risk’ Before Temp Worker’s Death" Megan Woolhouse, The Boston Globe, and Michael Grabell, ProPublica, May. 21, 2014

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Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.
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Pittsburgh, PA 15222

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