Washington, DC- Following the tragic death of a worker in Bucks County U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), Chairman of the Health Education Labor and Pensions (HELP) Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety, pressed the Occupational Safety and Health Administration on safety protections for temp workers. At the CSC Sugar plant in Fairless Hills, Pennsylvania. Janio Salinas died of asphyxiation after being buried alive in the process of unclogging a sugar hopper. A safety device to prevent clogging in the hopper, which would have also prevented Salinas’s death, was removed just 13 days before the accident, because the device was “slowing down production”. The accident also came in the wake of an incident just after the safety device was removed, where a worker narrowly escaped the same fate.
“All workers whether they be permanent or temporary deserve to be able to work in a safe environment,” Senator Casey said. “The death of Janio Salinas is deeply troubling. It’s incumbent upon OSHA to review the prevalence of workplace accidents involving temporary workers and ensure that the appropriate safeguards are in place. We, in Congress, have a duty to ensure that OSHA has the necessary tools to do its job. That’s why I have co-sponsored the Protecting America’s Workers Act and have asked OSHA if there is more we need to do to help protect temp workers, like Janio Salinas. We must also acknowledge the important work that news organizations like ProPublica and Univision have done to bring this important story to light.”
The full text of Senator Casey’s letter can be seen below:
The Honorable David Michaels
U.S. Department of Labor
Occupational Safety & Health Administration
200 Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20210
Dear Dr. Michaels,
I am writing to express my deep concern about employment and workplace safety practices involving temporary workers and to ask about OSHA’s efforts to address this issue. I am also concerned about possible regulatory or legislative impediments to OSHA’s ability to ensure safe and healthful workplaces for temporary workers.
I am particularly troubled in the wake of a recent fatality at the CSC Sugar plant in Fairless Hills, Pennsylvania. Janio Salinas died of asphyxiation after being buried alive in the process of unclogging a sugar hopper. A safety device to prevent clogging in the hopper, which would have also prevented Salinas’s death, was removed just 13 days before the accident, because the device was “slowing down production”. The accident also came in the wake of an incident just after the safety device was removed, where a worker narrowly escaped the same fate.
OSHA fined CSC $25,855 for the accident, reduced to $18,098 after CSC compliance with some safety measures. OSHA also declined to find CSC “willfully in violation” of safety regulations, though the company had removed a safety device, and been previously fined by OSHA in 2010 for neglecting to implement a safety and health training program for temp employees.
While I appreciate that OSHA has limited jurisdiction in prosecuting workplace accidents, the growing number of accidents and fatalities involving temporary workers is clearly unacceptable. In a 2013 report, ProPublica found that temporary workers face a significantly higher risk of workplace injury than permanent employees, as both temp agencies and employers often fail to provide training or comply with safety measures.
I therefore request your response to the following questions:
- Has OSHA investigated the prevalence of workplace accidents involving temporary workers as compared to accidents involving permanent employees? If so, what did OSHA find? Please provide any available data surrounding workplace incidents involving temporary workers.
- What specific steps has the Administration taken to increase enforcement of workplace training and safety measures for temp workers?
- What additional actions can be taken by the Administration to further address these issues? How can Congress help?
Thank you for your attention to this important issue. I look forward to your response.
Senator Robert P. Casey Jr.
Employment and Workplace Safety Subcommittee
United States Senate