Failing to protect workers from serious injuries on the job is a violation of federal law. When an employer knows about dangerous conditions in the workplace and how to correct them, but fails to make the workplace safe, the employer has acted with a willful disregard for the law.
At Lloyd Industries Inc. in Montgomeryville, Pennsylvania, Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspectors have found dozens of serious violations in the past 15 years leading to severe injuries, including lacerations, and crushed, fractured, dislocated and amputated fingers. Lloyd manufactures products for ventilation, ducts and fire safety – but its lack of commitment to its own workers’ safety recently led us to place the company in our Severe Violator Enforcement Program.
Last July, a 21-year-old worker lost three fingers when the die on a press brake machine came down on his right hand. The machine he was working on didn’t have safety guards, and it hadn’t been working properly before the incident. What’s worse, the company knew the machine didn’t have the required safety guards to protect workers from injuries. In a previous inspection, owner William Lloyd had complained to OSHA inspectors that machine guards (which are required to protect workers from dangerous moving parts) slowed production.
The injury led to another inspection, in which OSHA found multiple safety violations and fined Lloyd Industries $822,000.
We know that the costs of workplace injuries are disproportionately carried by injured workers, their families, and taxpayer-supported components of the social safety net. We know that injuries like this can make it difficult, if not impossible, for workers to climb out of poverty or maintain a middle-class lifestyle. And we know that workplace injuries are preventable, which makes situations like this – where we see a pattern of defiance – unacceptable.
Employers need to know that workplace safety is not negotiable. And employees need to know that they have rights. There is no excuse for a company to repeatedly endanger its employees. This must stop now.
Dr. David Michaels is the assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health.