OSHA shrinks worker death list, cutting most Georgia fatalities

OSHA staff interviewing a worker at a job site

OSHA staff interviewing a worker at a job site

Detailed public information about U.S. workers killed on the job was removed Friday from the homepage of the federal agency responsible for workplace safety, replaced with an abbreviated list elsewhere that omits many deaths and other details.

That new list, for example, includes the deaths of only two Georgia workers so far this fiscal year, which began Oct. 1. But information compiled by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution shows that at least 32 Georgia workers have been killed on the job in that time, with the latest death Sunday at a treated wood facility in Thomson.

Also removed from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration list are the names of victims. Instead, the list provides only the date, location and a brief description of the incident. To see where the victims worked, the public must click through to incident reports. Detailed information on some additional cases is available by searching summaries of fatality and catastrophe investigations, although locating the information on the website can be difficult.

The online news organization Politico, which broke the story, reported that the federal agency had changed its policy to report only fatalities where it had cited a company for violations. Such reports may be posted months after an accident.

Politico quoted a Labor Department spokesman who said the new policy will ensure that information is more accurate and that it respects the privacy of victims’ family members.

But publishing victims’ names was important to humanize the data and remind the public that more than 4,500 workers are killed on the job each year, said Jordan Barab, a former deputy assistant secretary for OSHA during the Obama administration. “In eight years of posting this information, along with the names, we never received one complaint from a family about privacy,” he wrote in an email to the AJC.

“Having the names does enable researchers and others to look further into the incident,” he wrote. “The inspection reports that are linked on the new list don’t provide much useful information beyond what violations were cited.”

He also noted that the OSHA list provided public notice of deaths of workers who don’t fall under OSHA’s legal jurisdiction, including most public employees, workers on small farms or small businesses where OSHA is prohibited from enforcing the law, and workers covered by other federal agencies, such as rail and mine workers.

Friday’s move is the latest under the Trump Administration to de-emphasize enforcement actions and instead highlight safety measures.

In other moves, OSHA also has delayed the deadline for companies to electronically submit logs of serious work-related injuries and illnesses. The deadline had been July 1; it was delayed to Dec. 1.

In addition, as the AJC reported earlier this year, OSHA now issues fewer news releases, and most have been for safety events.

By this date last year, the agency had issued 55 news releases for the OSHA region that includes Georgia, with only about a half dozen announcing safety campaigns. The rest announced enforcement actions. This year, 13 news releases are posted for the region: nine for safety events and four for enforcement actions.

The agency’s homepage now highlights how companies can cooperate with OSHA on safety measures, Politico reported.

The two Georgia worker deaths shown on OSHA’s new fatalities list are the Jan. 5 death in Evans of a worker in a trench collapse, and the April 20 death in Flowery Branch of a worker when a wall collapsed.

News reports show that Joshua Price, 25, of Augusta, who worked for Hardy Plumbing, was the victim in the trench collapse. The victim in the Flowery Branch wall collapse was Francisco Reyes, who was listed as working for Atlanta Environmental Services.

The AJC has compiled its own list of worker deaths for the fiscal year, drawing on news reports and other public information. So far in August, the AJC found, three men have been killed in Georgia: Johnny Bradshaw, 58, in an accident Sunday at Hoover Treated Wood in Thomson; Gregory L. Goffredo Sr., 53, after a truck pinned him in Cobb County; and Jeremy Scott Busby, 29, who died when a hydraulic car lift fell on him at a car shop in Athens.

A worker at this Forsyth County construction site was electrocuted last October and another worker was critically injured. WSB photo

Here are the other Georgia deaths for FY2017, as compiled from news reports and other records:

July

31: A dump truck driver was killed near Bogart, Ga., when a tire apparently failed, the truck hit trees and overturned, then caught on fire. The victim has not yet been officially identified, said Oconee County Coroner Ed Carson.

20: Quarry worker Matthew Walter Kantala IV, 36, was crushed by 8 tons of falling rock, when he was drilling a section of granite In Oglethorpe County. He reportedly worked for Blue Sky Quarries.

12: John Bernecker, 33, a stuntman for “The Walking Dead,” died after he fell on the set.

June

3: Hazel Harrell, 60, was killed in what was called a freak accident while working at Road Atlanta when she was hit by a racing motorcycle.

May

18: Amber Hale, 28, fell from a billboard along a Georgia interstate in Lowndes County.

April

25: Derrick Douglas, 41, was killed and a co-worker critically injured at a Cobb County construction site. The men, who reportedly worked for DayStar Infrastructure & Construction, were in the bucket of a boom lift machine when it tipped.

24: George Fox, who worked for United Maintenance, was electrocuted while working at Ray of Hope Church in Decatur.

20: Francisco Reyes, who worked for Atlanta Environmental Services, was fatally injured when a wall collapsed in Flowery Branch.

7: A construction worker for Olympus Painting Contractors was killed when a car plowed into a work zone near Villa Rica. News reports did not identify the victim.

4: In Fayetteville, Javier Padraza-Perez, 41, of Roswell, fell to his death at Pinewood Atlanta Studios. He worked for All Steel Construction.

3: Laura Evans, who worked for Impact Outsourcing Solutions, died after tripping and falling in Griffin.

1: Trevor Bryan, 20, was working at Georgia Power Co.’s Plant Scherer when he was apparently hit in the head with some kind of equipment. He worked for Atlantic Plant Maintenance.

March

30: William Helmintoller Jr, 52, an employee of US Pipeline, was working on a natural gas pipeline in Coweta County helping to load pipe onto a trailer when it knocked him down and the pipe landed on him.

30: Juan Mojica, who worked for Southeast Processing Limited, died after being thrown from a fork lift in Forest Park.

February

5: Sgt. Greg Meagher died when he inhaled liquid nitrogen in trying to rescue a worker at a sperm bank in Augusta.

January

5: Joshua Price, 25, of Augusta, an employee of Hardy Plumbing, was killed when a trench caved in.

December

28: Tommy Solomon, 59, who owned a tree maintenance business, was killed when his chainsaw struck a power line on Tybee Island and he fell.

21: John Brooks, 55, was caught in a machine while working at Diamond Plastics Co, in south Bibb County.

20: David Ambrose, 40, was crushed between a computerized forklift and a doorway while working at Graham Packaging Company.

19: Richard Carl Anderson, 62, was killed when he fell into a machine at a sand mine for Atlanta Sand & Supply Co. in Crawford County.

12: Spencer Young, 50, of Lawrenceville, a tree-trimming crew member for Yellow Ribbon Tree Experts, was flagging traffic in Marietta when an 82-year-old driver struck him.

6: David L. Beaver, a private truck operator for Pioneer Transport, was killed in the rail yard at the port’s Garden City Terminal when he was struck by the driver of another truck.

November

16: A 64-year-old worker for Total Airport Services of Atlanta was struck by an aircraft ground support equipment lug, causing severe head injuries. His name was not released.

2: Luis Felipe Vasquez, who worked for Lia De Anda, was killed in a fall from a ladder in Savannah.

October

24: Kris R. Corley was killed in a trench collapse. OSHA records previously available on the website showed he was working for Thompson Grading of Waco, Ga.

16: A worker for Pit Stop Sanitation Services was killed in a fall from a trailer in Kennesaw, when a load shifted on a waste collection truck and pushed him off.

12: A worker for Jp General Construction in Forsyth County was preparing to rig a truss to be lifted when the crane and boom cable came in contact with a power line and he was electrocuted. Another worker was critically injured.

11: A worker for C.W. Matthews Contracting was struck by a truck and then fatally crushed by a paver.

3: Jeremy Simpson, 36, who worked for Daniel RP Management, was killed when a sprayer overturned in Greensboro.

Note: This article has been updated to remove one incident that occurred before the current fiscal year.

Reader Comments 1

2 comments
Kathy
Kathy

Who is watching the agencies that are supposed to be watching out for us? It seems like these policy changes in State agencies, paid for by the taxpayer, do not represent the best interest of workers. But more and more reflect the interests of corporations. More than a trend. A mindset that reflects the real intentions of the politicians making these policy decisions.

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  1. […] example, OSHA now reports a grand total of two work-related deaths in Georgia since Oct. 1, 2016, while an AJC investigation reports 33 work-related fatalities in that same time […]

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