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Claim: Steel company had long history of safety violations

Many people in Texas are familiar with the Occupational and Safety Health Administration, an agency tasked with investigating workplaces and issuing fines to those that are unsafe. While these actions prevent many accidents from happening, they cannot prevent them all. Much of OSHA's work comes in after a workplace accident has occurred and someone has already been seriously injured. And even when they issue fines to unsafe or noncompliant companies, there are still employers who fail to take these measures seriously and continue to operate dangerous companies. 

That could very well be the case at Republic Steel, a plant that had been investigated by OSHA multiple times for unsafe conditions and had to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines for serious violations in recent years. Despite all this, however, the company still failed to take sufficient action in keeping workers safe. As a result of this negligence, a worker was recently killed when he was working as a brakeman on a train car.

The man worked at the plant for 45 years and reportedly told his wife that he was in constant fear for his safety on the job. People had been seriously hurt because of workplace hazards that were not addressed, including a man who fell 47 feet through a roof while working. There were also reports that the train tracks used by the company were frequently covered in snow and ice, making it dangerous for people to riding on the neglected rails. Whether this failed maintenance and unsafe equipment contributed specifically to the man's fatal accident has yet to be confirmed.

As devastating as this man's death already is, it may be more upsetting that his death likely did not have to happen. Had safety measures been established and enforced at the plant in response to the numerous OSHA citations, the accident might have been prevented.

Unfortunately, companies all across the country fail to take their responsibility to keep workers safe seriously. They cut corners and ignore regulations in the interest of saving time and money, even if it puts people in danger. But victims of these industrial accidents should remember that they can take legal action against a negligent company. OSHA fines might not be enough to prompt changes in a company, but being held legally and financially accountable for a worker's death or injury could send a very powerful message.

Source: The Chronicle-Telegram, "Republic worker killed in accident had expressed safety concerns," Evan Goodenow, Feb. 16, 2014

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