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Workers' families awarded $3.5 million after chemical accident

Employers in Ohio and across the nation are required to provide employees with safe work environments, and this often requires proper safety training and gear in hazardous work environments. When employers fail to respect this very basic workers' right, serious workplace accidents may occur, resulting in injuries and even death.

Recently, two families in another state were awarded a total of $3.5 million after two men died due to unsafe working conditions dry-cleaning plant.

The incident occurred in 2007 when one of the men who normally worked as a truck driver was instructed to power wash a storage tank. He was reportedly told that the tank contained wastewater although it actually contained sulfuric acid. The man was provided with only surgical gloves and a lint mask for protection, and his shoes were covered with plastic duct tape. The father of three died when he inhaled the toxic fumes.

When emergency workers arrived on the scene, they were unable to retrieve the man's body because the tank meter showed dangerous amounts of carbon monoxide. His family received $1.9 million of the jury award.

Shortly before this tragedy occurred, the company had been the subject of a complaint that the chemicals being discharged from the plant into the municipal sewer system were above a safe limit. In the year after the accident, OSHA fined the company $79,000 for multiple violations, including the failure to keep employees away from the wastewater tank as well as a failure to provide proper communication training regarding hazards at the plant.

As in many workplace accident cases, the employer clearly could have taken steps to prevent these deaths. The employer assigned someone to a hazardous task that was not within his regular responsibilities, failed to provide sufficient protective gear for the task,  and had ignored recent complaints about the hazard that ended up killing the men.

Employers are required to keep their workplaces as safe as possible. When an employee does suffer an on-the-job injury, regardless of who caused the accident, it can be wise to seek legal guidance in order to understand one's rights.

Source:, "$3.5M verdict for families of 2 workers killed at Linden dry cleaning plant in 2007," Thomas Zambito, March 13, 2014

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