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Safety screen in sugar plant
This is a safety screen that could have saved a man's life if it hadn't been removed by management.
Temp workers face enormously elevated danger in the workplace, as a running investigatory series by ProPublica in collaboration with Univision shows. Those dangers are in addition to the low wages and unstable employment of temp work—it's a total package of exploitation. Now, a new story in the series shows how weak enforcement and penalties are even when workers are killed.

In states across the country, temp workers are dramatically more likely to be injured on the job—50 percent more in California and Florida, 72 percent more in Minnesota. In at least four states, temp workers are three times more likely to suffer amputations than permanent employees. Numbers like that are the product of reckless disregard by employers. Disregard like this: In 2013, a temp named Janio Salinas was buried alive in sugar in a Pennsylvania warehouse staffed entirely by temps, up to and including the warehouse manager. This was not an innocent accident:

The warehouse manager told OSHA that he had complained repeatedly to upper management about the dangers of becoming engulfed while unclogging the sugar hopper. He said he had asked the plant manager for a safety device to prevent clogging, but the plant manager said "we can't do that" because of financial constraints.

A screen that OSHA said would have prevented workers from falling into the sugar hopper was removed 13 days before Salinas’ accident.

Eventually, the company decided to install a screen over the hopper to prevent clogging. But 13 days before the accident, according to OSHA, the plant manager ordered it removed because it was slowing down production.

For this, the company was hit with a $25,855 fine that was dropped to $18,098 when it installed a safety guard and improved its safety procedures. What's more:
... even though it removed a safety device and had received previous warnings to train its temp workers, OSHA didn't find the company "willfully in violation," which would have triggered bigger fines, [OSHA's Jean Kulp] said. Kulp said the violations that were found didn't show "total disregard" for OSHA standards.
If removing a safety device in the name of profit isn't total disregard, what is? And if you wonder why companies are willing to risk workers' lives—well, why wouldn't they, at the cost of fines like that?

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Tue Jul 08, 2014 at 09:30 AM PDT.

Also republished by WE NEVER FORGET and In Support of Labor and Unions.

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