Not an “accident”: Jason Strycharz, 40, suffers fatal work-related injury in Middletown, CT

Jason Strycharz, 40 suffered fatal traumatic injuries on Monday, January 23, 2015 while working at Primary Steel, LLC in Middletown, CT. AP reports:

  • The incident occurred around 9 am.
  • The fire marshal Albert Santostefano says the worker was struck by a piece of steel as it was swinging on a crane inside the warehouse.

NBC Connecticut quotes the fire marshal:

  • “They were in the process of moving some steel around inside the warehouse part of the building, and somehow the steel got swinging. It was on a crane inside the warehouse and it struck one of the employees.”

Some news accounts report the incident occurred at Primary Steel which is located at the same address as Kloeckner Metals. Mr. Strycharz’s family indicated his employer was Primary Steel. Bloomberg Business Week indicates that Primary Steel was acquired by Houston-based Kloeckner Metals Corporation in 2010.

The company’s Code of Conduct reads:

“We endeavor at all times a healthy and hazard-free working environment for our employees. We therefore comply with laws and rules on health and safety in the workplace and actively examine and improve safety standards.”

But their safety record is not something to brag about when it comes to OSHA inspections. In just the last two years, 10 inspections have been conducted at Kloeckner Metals’ plants in CA, GA, NC, OH, PA and TN. (There are no records in OSHA’s on-line database to indicate inspections at the Middletown, CT facility, at least not since 1998.) Seven of the 10 inspections were instigated because of complaints or serious injury incidents. An inspection in 2014 at their plant in Cincinnati, OH, for example, resulted in three serious and one repeat violations related to failures in machine guarding and lockout/tagout procedures.OSHA proposed a $56,000 penalty. That inspection occurred after a worker suffered what OSHA described as a “catastrophic injury.” In a news release announcing the citations and proposed penalty, OSHA noted:

“The company knew how dangerous these machines could be, and they did not put their employees first. It’s a culture too common in the manufacturing industry, and it needs to change.”

Another inspection last year at the company’s Sante Fe Springs, CA location identified serious violations related to unsafely stacked heavy loads which could have collapsed or fallen, and machinery inadequately restrained from moving. Cal/OSHA proposed a $36,750.  And there’s this which may foretell the circumstances that led to Jason Strycharz’s death: North Carolina OSHA issued citations in November 2014 to Kloeckner Metals related to three serious violations at its Charlotte, NC plant. The violations included industrial slings being loaded in excess of their rated capacities, loads not balanced to prevent slippage, and failing to keep workers clear of suspended loads. It’s difficult for me to see how violations of fundamental safety regulations jive with the Kloeckner Metals’ Code of Conduct. It also is why I get annoyed when work-related fatalities are reported as “accidents,” as if they couldn’t have been prevented.

Each year, about two dozen workers are killed on the job in Connecticut. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 26 work-related fatal injuries in Connecticut during 2013 (preliminary data, most recent available.) Nationwide, at least 4,405 workers suffered fatal traumatic injuries in 2013. The AFL-CIO’s annual Death on the Job report notes:

  • Federal  OSHA has 24 inspectors in Connecticut to cover more than ,88,000 workplaces.
  • The average penalty for a serious violation in Connecticut is $1,735.

Federal OSHA has until the end of July 2015 to issue any citations and penalties related to the incident that stole Jason Strycharz’s life. It’s likely they’ll determine that Strycharz’s death was preventable. It was no “accident.”

Comments

  1. #1 liz
    January 27, 2015

    Was this in Vermont or Connecticut?

  2. #2 Celeste Monforton, DrPH, MPH
    January 27, 2015

    Sorry for the confusion. My original post contained information about worker fatalities in Vermont and Vermont OSHA. I’ve corrected it to refer to Connecticut. Thanks for bringing the error to my attention.

  3. #3 Jay gell
    Shelby, NC
    May 8, 2015

    I got a beef with Kloeckner Metals as well. They are NOT a company with a “safety culture” regardless of their claims. They ARE an OSHA “Fine Avoidance Culture”. It is a culture of production and profit regardless of the human cost, that is they really do not care about the employees health, safety, or welfare. If they did, and truly were a “Safety Culture” company they would understand forcing some employees to do endless “mandatory overtime” creates the burned out, resentful, and unfocused employee that is the root cause to workplace accidents and injuries. I know this because I was one, reported safety issues and a minor injury and was fired.