In Nebraska, Latino Worker Fatally Exposed to Nitrogen on the Job

December 18, 2014 by No Comments

Toxic Chemical

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited a Nebraska company for violations of its safety regulations on confined spaces that resulted in the death of a Latino worker on June 19.

According to a WorkersCompensation.com article, the 23-year-old worker was found unresponsive in a tanker truck at Michael Foods Inc.’s Big Red Farms facility in Wakefield. The tank contained nitrogen, which contributed to the worker’s death.

As a result, OSHA has issued five citations against Michael Foods Inc., including exposing employees to nitrogen and failing to prevent employees from entering permit-required confined areas.

“This tragedy could have been prevented had the employer implemented basic safety precautions associated with confined spaces and nitrogen exposure,” Bonita Winingham, area director of OSHA in Omaha, said.

OSHA requires that all workplaces provide proper ventilation in any work areas where hazardous substances are handled, such as a warehouse’s battery room. However, Michael Foods didn’t take the necessary steps to ensure proper ventilation in the tank trunk in which the worker was found. Nor was a system of emergency protocol in place that could have allowed the worker to be rescued, according to WorkersCompensation.com.

In its citations, OSHA also pointed out how Michael Foods hadn’t adequately trained its employees on the hazards of exposure to atmospheric chemicals. Nitrogen, in particular, can act as an asphyxiant if inhaled in high enough concentrations.

Latinos are among the most at-risk employees for workplace injury and fatality. A Bureau of Labor Statistics study found that in 2013, 797 Hispanic workers had work-related injuries that resulted in death — nearly two deaths per day. So far, three Latino workers have lost their lives on the job in Nebraska this year.

Michael Foods is known for producing food brands like Papetti’s, Crystal Farms, AllWhites and Simply Potatoes, according to NBC Omaha. OSHA’s proposed fines for the company’s violations amount to $30,900.

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