Compactors In Retail Settings Can Be Deadly.

OSHA regularly cites retail employers for violations relating to their compactors and balers, many of which are old and ill-maintained.  I wish that we could say that deaths involving store contractors are rare, but that would not be true.  Please see the recent story below:

REDWOOD City, Calif. — An employee at a Redwood City Grocery Outlet was killed Thursday night in an accident involving a machine used to compact cardboard for recycling, officials said Friday.

The store janitor was found by another employee around 10 p.m. crushed to death in a compactor/baler in the store at 1833 Broadway, according to California Division of Occupational Safety and Health spokesman Peter Melton.

(Read More).

Below is a typical OSHA news release on a common retail citation:

ALBANY, N.Y. – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Dick’s Sporting Goods for six alleged violations of workplace safety standards after an OSHA inspection identified several hazards at the retailer’s store at the Aviation Mall in Queensbury. The Pennsylvania-based retailer faces a total of $57,300 in proposed fines.

OSHA inspectors found that workers at the Queensbury store were periodically required to enter a trash compactor that had not first been de-energized in order to remove cardboard blockages. Additionally, the store lacked the means and procedures for employees to enter and work safely in such a confined space, and training was not provided on the hazards and safeguards associated with work in a confined space. Finally, access to fire extinguishers was blocked and employees were not trained in how to use fire extinguishers in the event of a fire.

“Even in a retail outlet, employees can be exposed to deadly or disabling hazards if the proper safeguards and training are absent, as they were here,” said Edward Jerome, OSHA’s area director in Albany. “These workers could have been crushed or burned. For the safety and health of all of its employees, I urge this employer to examine safety and health issues at its other stores and promptly take corrective action.”

Two repeat violations with $33,000 in fines were cited for the blocked fire extinguishers and lack of fire extinguisher training. Four serious violations with $24,300 in fines were cited for the confined space hazards and a missing fire extinguisher.

OSHA even treats the subject in its Youth Worker Safety materials.

In fact, the DOL expressly deals with compactors in its restrictions on minor workers:

Minors under 18 years of age may not operate or unload scrap paper balers or paper box compactors. Sixteen- and 17-year-olds may load such machines under certain specific circumstances. (See Fact Sheet #57, in this series Hazardous Occupations Order No. 12. Rules for Employing Youth and the Loading of Power-Driven Balers and Compactors under the FLSA.)

The tragic California accident is a good reminder to check interlocks, signage, training and lock-out procedures for compactors, as well as those persistent retail setting repeatable violations involving partially blocked doors, fire extinguishers and electric panels in store rooms.

 

About mavity2012

I am a Senior Partner operating out of the Atlanta office of Fisher & Phillips LLP, one of the Nation’s oldest and largest management employment and labor firms. My practice is national and keeps me on the road or in one of our 28 offices about 50 percent of the time. I created and co-chair the Firm's Workplace Safety and Catastrophe Management Practice Group. I have almost 29 years of experience as a labor lawyer, but rely even more heavily on the experience I gained in working in my family's various businesses, and through dealing with practical client issues. Employers tell me that they seldom meet an attorney who delivers on his promise to provide practical guidance and to be a business partner. As a result, some executives probably use different terms than “practical” to describe my fellow travelers in the profession. I don't enjoy the luxury of being impractical because I spend much of my time on shop floors and construction sites dealing with safety, union and related issues which are driven by real world processes and the need to protect and get the most out of one's most important business assets ... its employees. That's one of the reasons that I view safety compliance as a way to also manage problem employees, reduce litigation and develop the type of work environment that makes unions unnecessary. Starting out dealing with union-management challenges and a stint in the NLRB have better equipped me to see the interrelationship of legal and workplace factors. I am proud also of my experience at Fisher & Phillips, where providing “practical advice” is second only to legal excellence among the Firm’s values. Our website lists me as having provided counsel for over 225 occasions of union activity, guided unionized companies, and as having managed approximately 450 OSHA fatality cases in construction and general industry, ranging from dust explosions to building collapses, in virtually every state. I have coordinated complex inspections involving multi-employer sites, corporate-wide compliance, and issues involving criminal referral. As a full labor lawyer, I oversee audits of corporate labor, HR, and safety compliance. I have responded to virtually every type of day-to-day workplace inquiry, and have handled cases before the EEOC, OFCCP, NLRB, and numerous other state and federal agencies. At F & P, all of us seek to spot issues and then rely upon attorneys in the Firm who concentrate on those areas. No tunnel vision. I teach or speak around 50 times per year to business associations, bar and professional groups, and to individual businesses. I serve on safety committees at three states’ AGC Chapters, teach at the AGC ASMTC
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