Workplace safety isn't on the "nice-to-have" list of goals for employers. Federal and state laws establish that workers have the right to operate in safe environments. That means making sure they get information about all the known risks around them, the training necessary to avoid harm and any equipment that might be essential for maintaining safety. Unfortunately, not every employer lives up to those obligations. And even where they do, work-related injuries still occur.
Workers' compensation insurance, also established by Georgia law, is supposed to ensure that injured workers get the care and income support they may require to return to the work force. However, employers with fewer than three employees are exempt, and then some who should have coverage seek to shed responsibility by denying claims or misclassifying employees as independent contractors. Fighting for your rights can be stressful, but can be made easier with help from a skilled attorney.
What prompts this reminder about worker protections is the latest release of the annual "Dirty Dozen" list of U.S. employers that allow unsafe practices to persist in their facilities. According to the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, they not only put their employees at risk, but also the communities around them. And this year's list includes at least a few that have a presence in Georgia.
Amazon counts as one. It has fulfillment centers in full swing in three Georgia communities now and is working on opening two more. But the company makes the National COSH black list because of seven worker deaths at Amazon warehouses since 2013. Three deaths at three different facilities were recorded in 2017.
Another is Dine Brands Global Inc., the company that owns the Applebee's and IHOP restaurant brands. National COSH says it makes the list because more than 60 workers in eight states have filed complaints about toxic environments that included sexual harassment since 2010.
Two other recognizable companies making the list for 2018 include:
- Lowe's Home Improvement: cited because of 56 deaths of workers and consumers due to exposure to methylene chloride-based paint stripping products.
- Waste Management: This company made the list because of a worker death from a machine that was not properly tagged and locked during repairs.
If these major companies make the Dirty Dozen list it begs the question, how much larger would the list be if every small employer were reviewed.