The Harrisburg Area Office of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has opened 13 workplace fatality investigations in 2022 thus far. The incidents have ranged from COVID-19-related deaths to electrocutions, falls, and being struck by or crushed by objects.
According to the Department of Labor, most of these fatalities were preventable.
Over the past year, there was a 30% increase in workplace fatalities in a 14-county area of southcentral Pennsylvania that includes Harrisburg. During OSHA’s “Safe + Sound Week,” the agency called on employers to uphold their duty to keep workplaces “free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees…” in accordance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act of 1970.
Since October 1, 2021, OSHA has investigated a total of 21 workplace deaths in Central Pennsylvania. 12 of these investigations remain open as of the time of this writing. 13 were initiated in 2022.
5 of the deaths occurred after workers contracted COVID-19, including a caregiver at a long-term care facility in York. 3 deaths involved falls: an Amazon worker who died after falling 26 feet in a forklift collapse in Carlisle, an employee who fell down a flight of stairs in Brogue, and a worker who fell 5 stories while performing demolition work in State College. Two of the workers were electrocuted: one while performing telecommunications installation work; the other while performing underground installation work. Eight other cases involved workers being struck by, crushed, or run over by an object or machinery, including a chicken barn collapse in Gettysburg and an HVAC crane accident in York.
About OSHA’s Workplace Fatality Investigations
OSHA is tasked with ensuring “safe and healthful working conditions for workers by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education, and assistance.” One of the ways it carries out its mission is by investigating all catastrophes or fatalities.
When OSHA investigates a fatality, it will determine:
- The cause of the incident
- Whether OSHA standards were violated
- Whether the violation had an impact on the incident
The Area Director of the appropriate OSHA office will be responsible for initiating, determining the scope of, and overseeing the investigation, which should be completed expeditiously. It is recommended that the investigation should be initiated within one working day of the fatality.
In situations where an employer willfully violated an OSHA standard or was “plainly indifferent to employee safety,” and this resulted in a worker’s death, criminal charges may be filed.
Helping Families in Harrisburg & Across Pennsylvania
Headquartered in Harrisburg and serving workers across Pennsylvania for the past 100 years, Handler, Henning & Rosenberg LLC is committed to helping families who have lost loved ones in workplace accidents. Case after case has shown us that these incidents are largely preventable and that employers need to do more to uphold OSHA standards and protect their workers.
Handling workers’ compensation claims and wrongful death actions after workplace fatalities, our Pennsylvania work injury attorneys are committed to helping every family we represent find answers and justice. To learn more about your rights and options after any on-the-job accident or injury, call (888) 498-3023 or contact us online. Your initial consultation is free and private.