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Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation, Case Study Example

Pages: 1

Words: 1150

Case Study

Migrant farm worker dies from heat stroke while working on a tobacco farm, N. Carolina

During the summer of 2006, a 44 year old Hispanic migrant farm worker died of heat stroke while working in the tobacco fields in North Carolina. One month prior, he had arrived on the fields from Mexico as a hired worker. Throughout the one month term of his employment, he had strict work requirements, including arrival to work early in the morning, a short break several hours later consisting of an unreasonably small snack, and was allowed lunch several hours after that. On the day that the worker suffered a fatality, he was required to work during a heat wave with a heat index of 100 to 110. He complained to crew members several hours after lunch that he was not feeling well, so he consumed water and returned to his on-site housing to rest. 45 minutes later, he was found unconscious and later pronounced dead. The hospital staff had determined that his body temperature measured 108 degrees Fahrenheit, clearly indicating that he had overheated.

Hispanic migrant workers in addition to other ethnic populations of migrant workers are at high risk for heat related illness and death. Since they are not legally employed, it is difficult for the United States government to regulate terms of their employment. Ultimately, many hazards were present in this situation that would not have been the case for legally employed individuals. Although the report did not indicate how long this migrant worker was expected to be on shift, it did identify that his work day had begun at 7 AM and would continue past 4 PM. It is likely that this shift was expected to continue until the sun had set for the day. This is hazardous because workers are subject to fatigue for working long hours, which will cause them to feel faint. An additional hazard was that the temperatures were very high and therefore unsafe for intense manual labor. This could have been avoided by providing the worker with a small break in the shade for every 1-2 hours of work and ensuring that he was properly hydrated. Lastly, it is clear that the migrant worker was not provided with protective gear. Employers are always required to provide their employees with protective gear and equipment when working in a dangerous situation. In this case, the danger in question is weather extremes. The employees must therefore have been provided with the proper clothing to ensure that their body temperatures would be maintained.

This scenario is by no means a rare event and there is a high probability this will happen again. Migrant workers are regularly abused by their employers, who feel that they do not need to provide security and safety to their workers due to their illegal status. Even though many of the migrant workers are aware that they are not being treated well, many of them are desperate for money for both themselves and their families, and are willing to take on big risks in order to ensure that they will be able to support themselves. While many outreach groups exist that attempt to bring this issue to light and promote legislation that would protect migrant workers, many powerful farm owners are opposed to the financial loss they would suffer as a consequence, which has prevented this type of legislation from getting passed.

In this case, the investigators failed to mention the importance of this case in relation to the worker’s illegal status. While helpful advice was mentioned to prevent this occurrence for workers who are legally employed, they fail to dictate how these proposed solutions would positively impact the work situation on a farm in which many illegal immigrants are employed. Ultimately, these types of events will occur and continue to occur because there is no easy way to prevent them from happening.

Fourteen-year-old laborer dies after falling through a skylight, Alabama

On February 4, 2001 a 14 year old male laborer died from injuries that were caused by falling through a skylight twelve feet and landing directly on the concrete below. He had been employed with several others to fix the roofing on a commercial property. The workers reported that none of them had been provided with training in fall protection methods or protective gear. The worker had fallen because he lost his balance and fell through a skylight that was not being guarded. Although the EMT squad arrived at the scene four minutes after the fall, doctors were unable to save the worker, who died the day following the incident.

In both this and similar scenarios, young male workers are at risk. While many states allow young teenagers to work legally, there are not significant enough attempts to ensure that these individuals are aware of the laws that dictate terms for their protection. Therefore, employers believe that they are able to cut labor costs by failing to provide young workers with adequate safety training in addition to physical protection. Even though it is illegal to treat employees in this manner, young workers often do not know the terms of their employment. In cases in which young employees are aware of the law, they often do not concern themselves with reporting working conditions, as they are afraid that they will be fired from their position or given less work hours.

The main hazards discovered in this scenario pertain to the failure of the employer to communicate with OSHA to determine what fair labor practices for young teenagers are. Furthermore, the work site should have been monitored to determine potential slip and fall sites, and to have these areas clearly marked and guarded to prevent carelessness. Lastly, failing to provide the workers with hard hats and other protective equipment is extremely hazardous, and compliance would have prevented the worker’s fall from resulting in death.

This is a somewhat rare event, as the young teenage population is less likely to be taken advantage of than some other worker populations, such as illegal immigrants. The United States government is heavily concerned with the safety of minors in the context of employment, andhas enacted strict legislation in order to prevent events such as this one. However, this situation will happen again, although not frequently. Since young teenagers are an easy group to influence and they are generally naïve, they are a good target population for employers that behave unethically.

While the investigators indicated that barriers should be present to prevent falls, they fail to mention the protective gear that employees should have been equipped with. Proper shows would help prevent falls by providing employees with better grip. Providing employees with work gloves would also provide this same advantage, allowing them to grip objects more readily, potentially preventing a fall. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of employers to provide this gear and failure to do so was highly negligent.

References

CDC. (n.d.). Fatality assessment and control evaluation (face) program. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/face/inhouse.html

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