Blue Bird Corp., a Georgia-based school bus manufacturer, recently struck a deal with the U.S. Department of Labor to settle a lawsuit filed by the department claiming that the company illegally terminated a maintenance employee because the employee raised safety concerns regarding the proper use of a bucket lift to avoid a Georgia work accident.
The company now has to pay the employee $170,800 in back wages and nearly $6,000 in interest.
Our Atlanta workers’ compensation attorneys would like to remind employers that all employees must be trained on the operations of equipment and the safety measures to be taken when operating the equipment on the job. In this lawsuit, the employee requested training in the operation of the bucket life, but when the request started an argument with management, the employee was terminated for refusing to work under unsafe conditions.
“After much litigation, we are pleased with the successful settlement of this case in favor of the employee. The courts confirmed the Labor Department’s argument that every employee has the right to report any safety concerns in the workplace without fear of retaliation,” said Cindy Coe, administrator of OSHA’s Atlanta Regional Office. “The Labor Department will hold companies accountable when they violate basic worker rights.”
There are a number of whistleblower provisions that have been enacted by Congress that are aimed at preventing employers from retaliating against employees who raise concerns or provide protected information to the employer or to the government about unsafe work conditions.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has recently cited the Walgreens Co. store on Covington Highway in Lithonia with four safety violations for exposing workers to struck-by and other hazards. Penalties total $104,500.
Three repeat violations with $99,000 in penalties include exposing employees to being struck by unsecured compressed gas cylinders; allowing workers to use an A-frame stepladder to carry inventory up and down, and then step from the ladder onto a storage shelf to load and retrieve products without guardrails or fall protection; and failing to ensure exit routes are not blocked. A repeat violation exists when an employer previously has been cited for the same or a similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years. The company was cited for the same three violations in May 2008 at a Chicago, Ill., location.
Another Georgia company was reprimanded for compromising worker’s safety. Deerfield, Ill.-based Walgreens Co., a chain of pharmacy/retail stores, was handed four safety violations for exposing workers to struck-by and other hazards. These penalties totaled $104,500.
They were cited for exposing employees to the possibility of being struck by unsecured compressed gas cylinders, allowing workers to misuse an A-frame stepladder and failing to ensure exit routes are not blocked. They were cited with a serious violation for allowing electrical panel access to be blocked by display material, plastics totes and inventory.
“This employer failed to address common and basic hazards posed by blocked exits, falls from heights and being struck by a heavy gas cylinder,” said Bill Fulcher, director of OSHA’s Atlanta-East Area Office, which conducted an investigation in January. “All employers have a responsibility to keep the work environment safe for their employees.”
Deerfield has 15 business days from the receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to request a conference with OSHA’s area director, comply or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
If you have experienced a serious injury at work in the Atlanta area and want to discuss your rights, contact the experienced Atlanta workers’ compensation attorneys at J. Franklin Burns. Call 404-303-7770 to make a free appointment to discuss your claim.
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