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OSHA investigation reveals chronic unsafe conditions

New Jersey residents who believe that their bosses follow safety regulations may be interested to hear about a case reported by the U.S. Department of Labor in December. The incident involved Central Transport LLC, a shipping company that was investigated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for flagrantly violating accepted safety standards and placing workers at serious risk.

The OSHA investigation revealed a number of troubling practices. Instead of properly fixing forklifts that were known to be unsafe, the company would place them back into regular service. Many of these vehicles operated with deficiencies like broken lights, signal horns or brakes. In some cases, they leaked fluid, and many operators were made to use them in conditions that combined hazards like heavy loads with slippery or icy floors.

According to DOL statistics, forklifts are involved in accidents that result in about 35,000 severe injuries and 80 deaths annually. To combat the problem at the problematic shipper, OSHA commenced an enterprise-wide enforcement activity that included all of the firm's facilities in addition to those where the problems had actually been observed. After fighting a legal battle, the company eventually promised to hire an independent, third-party forklift safety monitor and take unsafe equipment out of service at its terminal facilities in 26 states.

Although OSHA and the DOL sometimes crack down on companies that violate safety rules, their investigations and interdictions don't always occur in time to save the livelihoods of injury victims. These agencies are hard-pressed to keep up with the massive number of unsafe workplaces across the nation, and some employers fight tooth and nail to avoid responsibility. Many victims find it necessary to resort to independent legal action, and attorneys might be able to help them use maintenance records and other evidence to prove their cases.

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