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Seafood company cited for workers' compensation death

An investigation at an East Coast seafood plant has shown that the death of a worker was entirely preventable. The investigation by the Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration concluded that the workers' compensation incident would not have occurred if the employer, Sea Watch International, had followed standard safety guidelines. That company is one of the largest distributors of canned seafood in Maryland and the rest of the nation. The company received seven violations for unsafe working conditions in connection with the Jan. 16 fatality.

Reports show that the 35-year-old victim was killed during the night shift when he became entangled in the moving parts of a clam-shucking machine. The man was apparently cleaning the instrument at that time. He had worked at Sea Watch for 18 years.

The company employs 15 full-time workers at its permanent site, with nearly 200 workers serving as temps through Workforce Unlimited. That staffing company was also hit with significant fines in connection with the incident. OSHA investigations show that the large number of untrained temporary workers in the seafood industry may be leading to more people getting injured on the job. Workers who are hired through staffing services are far less likely to get the safety training they need to properly perform their jobs.

Activists and family members say that the $44,410 assessed against Sea Watch by OSHA is just "pocket change," and that the fines should have been larger to send a message. Even though the OSHA violations may not have been costly, the seafood company and the staffing company could be held responsible for workers' compensation claims tied to the incident. The man's relatives may be entitled to death benefits through the firms' workers' compensation programs, which could help pay for lost income and other claims.

Source: South Coast Today, "Worker's death was preventable, OSHA says" Simon Rios, Jun. 11, 2014

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