Washington – Ironworker Management Progressive Action Cooperative Trust’s (IMPACT) Regional Advisory Board (RAB) meeting in New Orleans last December 7th shed light on a couple of important job site safety issues and presented solutions.
At the RAB meeting, workplace safety activist and authorized OSHA safety trainer Ronald Hayes shared the tragic story of his son’s death, shedding light on a very important workplace safety issue. Ron’s son Patrick, who was 19, died crushed under 60 tons of corn while cleaning out a silo at Showell Farms Inc.'s plant in De Funiak Springs, Fla. in October 1993. He died on his first day on the job for which he wasn’t trained. He was not wearing a safety harness when the accident occurred. No safety precautions were taken before putting Patrick to work on one of the most dangerous jobs in a grain silo. An OSHA field inspector recommended citing the company for six "willful" safety violations and over $500,000 in fines, which would have opened the company and its managers to possible criminal prosecution. But the fine was later reduced to $42,000, eliminating the possibility of criminal sanctions. Ron Hayes and his family were devastated when they learned about the reduced fines and citations from a local news broadcast.
In 1995, OSHA admitted to mishandling the case and the U.S. Department of Labor issued a formal apology. Patrick’s death led OSHA to revise grain handling standards to be applied to the kind of situation in which Patrick Hayes worked, and to allow for tougher sanctions.
Grief-stricken Ron and his wife Dot of Fairhope, Ala. later founded Families in Grief Hold Together (F.I.G.H.T.), non-profit dedicated to helping families through consequences of workplace fatalities and injuries as a way of honoring their son. FIGHT has a nationwide network of attorneys available for pro bono work and helped over 900 families over the past 24 years. Ron continues to educate employers and workers about workplace safety to raise awareness and help families in the aftermath of workplace fatalities, giving them a shoulder to lean on, a compassionate ear, and most importantly, hope.
“Do you have a safety program at your company because you want to or have to?” asked Hayes at the RAB meeting. “I want you to think about safety in relation to your loved ones. That’s the reason why safety is so important”
In keeping with its commitment to achieving zero incidents through training, education and raising awareness, IMPACT has supported FIGHT’s mission with donations in the past few years.
IMPACT is committed to ensuring workplace safety and launched a voluntary safety assessment program as part of the partnership benefits for partner contractors in the Southwest region. Contractors are finding the program to be instrumental in avoiding liabilities and ensuring worker safety. IMPACT has entrusted HazTek Safety Management, a renowned national safety and health management company in the industry, to evaluate partner contractors’ safety infrastructure and policies to identify and address gaps.
HazTek expert Charles Beysselane educated the meeting audience about the benefits of conducting a safety assessment to avoid injuries and fatalities on the job site. The IMPACT Southwest Safety Assessment Program evaluates employers’ compliance with federal, state and local regulatory requirements, corporate safety and health policies and site-specific safety plans. Both administrative and field compliance issues are assessed to ensure there’s no room for errors. The assessment typically lasts 2-3 days but contractors may add more days as needed to fit their individual needs. Any life-threatening exposures or hazards are addressed immediately.
The Southwest RAB meeting shed light on the importance of implementing precautionary, comprehensive safety measures to prevent tragic accidents in the workplace. They are immensely beneficial to both employers and workforce.