Worst of the worst for worker rights and safety: “Dirty Dozen” profiled in new report

Ignoring workers’ safety concerns.

Failing to fix hazards.

Directing employees to do unsafe tasks.

Repeatedly violating safety laws.

Falsifying training records and safety audits.

Lying to safety inspectors.

Who would do such things?

Regrettably, far too many employers and 12 of them are profiled in the report “The Dirty Dozen 2017: Employers who put workers & communities at risk.” It was released this week by the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH) as part of global commemorations of Worker Memorial Day.

National COSH asked its expansive network of health and safety activists to nominate employers for the shameful designation. They received loads of suggestions. The group whittled down the long list to 12, using criteria such as the severity of worker injuries and the companies’ histories of repeat violations.

The brief profiles of each company is more than enough to illustrate their indifference to safety and workers’ rights. The behavior of the companies is inexcusable. The worker deaths and injuries caused by these employers are senseless.

Take the case of Dedicated Trailer Cleaning Services (DTCS) which is just one of the “Dirty Dozen.” DTCS’s disregard for employees’ lives resulted in the death in October 2015 of Armond Stack, 49. He was killed inside an oxygen-depleted railway tanker that he was assigned to clean with two co-workers. DTCS failed to monitor the air inside the tank to determine whether it was safe. Doing so is fundamental for working inside a confined space because toxic gases can build up.

But the circumstances preceding Mr. Stack’s death make the fatality even more horrific. DTCS had been busted two times earlier by OSHA for exposing workers to the same hazard. (There’s no doubt that DTCS broke the law many other times without being caught.

The company was cited by OSHA in 2012 for two willful and nine serious violations of confined space safety regulations. The company never paid the penalty. The government referred the debt to a collection agency. An OSHA inspection in 2014 resulted in eight repeat violations of those same confined space rules. The company paid a $55,625 penalty.  Not too long afterwards came the day that Armond Stack, 49, was killed on the job.

As noted in the “Dirty Dozen” report,

Mr. Stack and two co-workers quickly were affected by the lack of oxygen inside the railway tanker. “One worker staggered out and called for help. Another recovered once emergency crews arrived on the scene. Armond Stack, an Algiers, Louisiana native, had no pulse. He was pronounced dead on arrival at a nearby hospital.”

The company is challenging the three repeat, two willful, and four serious violations identified by OSHA, as well as the proposed $226,000 penalty.

I scratch my head trying to figure out how DTCS can stay in business?

Why would any company hire DTCS for a tank cleaning project?

What firm sells them insurance?

I ask the same questions about National COSH’s other “Dirty Dozen” companies:

  • Atlantic Drain Services (Roslindale, MA)
  • California Cartage (Long Beach, CA)
  • Dollar General (Goodlettsville, TN)
  • Environmental Enterprises (Spring Grove, OH)
  • Fuyao Glass America (Dayton, OH)
  • Nissan USA (Franklin, TN)
  • Pilgrim’s Pride (Greeley, CO)
  • PrimeFlight (Nashville, TN)
  • TransAm Trucking (Olathe, KS)
  • Valley Garlic (Coalinga, CA)
  • X-Treme AG (Kerman, CA)
  • Samsung Seoul, South Korea

Among all the fine content in National COSH’s Dirty Dozen report, two short lines are sticking with me:

“There’s no reason for a worker to die in a trench. Or in a confined space. Or from a collision with an unguarded machine.”

Today is Worker Memorial Day, but those lines are appropriate for us to repeat every day of the year.