Tuesday, June 10, 2003

"Unpreventable Employee Misconduct'' Caused Death of Two Workers

Yet another addition to the list of ridiculous employer defenses.

This is the story of two Iowa workers, Daniel Grashoof, 25 and Brian Buford, 19 who were working in a 15 foot-deep trench last summer when they were overcome by fumes and drowned in more than a foot of water at the bottom of the trench. Last fall, Iowa OSHA cited the city of Chesterfield and its contractor, Instuform Technologies for failure to monitor the air, ventilate the area or provide ladders and tether to help rescue the men. Twenty citations were issued against the company, totally $808,250. The City was fined $9,000.

Instuform is now challenging the citation. Their excuse: The company's attorney charged that the asphyxiation deaths of two workers "were the result of unpreventable employee misconduct.''

IOSHA OSHA attorney, Gail Sheridan-Lucht, said the company still had a duty to make sure employees understood training measures. "These deaths should never have occurred,'' she said. "They were totally preventable.''

IOSHA also said "air monitors that would have warned them of the gas were found at the scene, but apparently weren't in use."

Imagine if Charlie Norwood's (R-GA) “Occupational Safety and Health- Fairness Act of 2003” passes with its requirement that OSHA citations would have to take into consideration “the degree of responsibility or culpability for the violation of the employer, the employees, and/or other persons” as well as the “good faith of the employer.”

OSHA probably would have cited the workers' families instead of the company.