Last Thursday night the state experienced the tragic on the job fatality of a worker at the Smurfit Stone Recycling Co.,  a paper recycling plant in Renton.  Rudimentary research efforts reveal that the state has a significant problem of fatal workplace injuries and that Smurfit Stone has a highly questionable workplace safety record.

This only calls more attention to the need to crack down on workplace safety problems as a way of saving money in the workers’ compensation system rather than cutting benefits.

More detail about how people are dying in workplace incidents can be found on the website of the Bernard Law Group.

http://www.4injured.com/blog/personal-injury/woman-killed-in-recycling-plant-accident/

The state government’s data on workplace fatalities can be found at this website:

http://www.lni.wa.gov/claimsins/insurance/datastatistics/laborstatistics/default.asp

After the shock of last week’s fatality, it is even more shocking to learn that there were 75 fatal workplace injuries in the state in 2009, the latest year for which a table exists.  There were 83 in 2008 and 88 in 2007.   Classified by industry, 60 were from private industry, 29 were from goods producing industry, 17 were from natural resources and mining and 17 were from agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting.  Classified by event, 23 were from transportation, 22 were from assault and violent acts, 19 were from contact with objects and equipment, 5 resulted from falls and 3 resulted from exposure to harmful substances and environments.

High Beam research reported on October 3, 2009 that the Smurfit Stone company was fined $19,325 for OSHA violations stemming from the electrocution of a worker at its container board mill in Fernandina Beach, FL.  OSHA had previously issued a citation and notice of penalty Angust 25 for serious violations, five of which were electrical hazards.   This also suggests that  a low level of fines was issued by OSHA under the Bush administration, creating an environment of lax standards.   

According to the website of attorney Steven J. Malman in Illinois, on June 10,2010 Smurfit Stone settled an unlawful business practices case over alleged concealment of workers injuries and discouragement of workers compensation claims.

This is a report of criminal charges filed by Monterey County against Smurfit Stone for covering up injury data to create the appearance of lower injury rates.

www.4injured.com/blog/personal-injury/woman-killed-in-recycling-plant-accident/

This case was settled by the company, as was the Illinois case.

 www.co.monterey.ca.us/…/Press%20Release-%20Smurfit%20Stone%20061610.pdf

More on this case can be found at: http://www.workerscompensation.com/compnewsnetwork/news/smurfit_stone_fraud.html

[Note: I do not understand why WordPress insists on putting text in italics with an underline and will not format this thext in regular type.  Perhaps the WordPress mavens can provide information on this]

Chapter11cases.com contains a link to legal documents concerning the claims of asbestos injury sufferers in the company’s bankruptcy case.

One of the company’s plants caught on fire in May 2010:

http://chronicle.augusta.com/latest-news/2010-05-26/firefighters-work-put-out-blaze?v=1274898726

Fire crews reported that the cause was an electrical problem in a piece of equipment:

http://www.wrdw.com/home/headlines/94941634.html