12 Companies Putting Workers at Risk

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Worker in a dangerous situation falling and sustaining a workplace injury
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Safety can be an issue in any workplace and is the reason workers compensation insurance exists. Accidents happen.

But reasonable precautions are expected — for instance, not having children as workers or making people work around human waste. Those are two of the issues called out in the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health‘s latest annual list of “dirty dozen” employers.

National COSH, a nonprofit advocacy group, selects companies that it says severely or repeatedly puts people in harm’s way — sometimes in fatal situations — but are in a position to do something about it. Companies are nominated for this dishonor by safety professionals, academic experts, workers and unions.

Following is an alphabetical list of companies putting their workers at risk, according to National COSH.

Amazon

Amazon driver
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Amazon has long been criticized for what some say are unsafe work environments; in 2022 alone, National COSH says there were multiple deaths at company warehouses, and citations were issued for serious injuries at seven locations. The U.S. Senate recently launched an investigation into Amazon’s safety practices.

“If Amazon can afford to spend $6 billion on stock buybacks last year, it can afford to make sure that its warehouses are safe places to work,” wrote Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in a letter announcing the investigation.

Among the letter’s many specific criticisms are a report that warehouse workers suffered nearly 39,000 injuries in 2022, nearly all of which were serious. It also cited dozens of federal safety violations and hazard alerts since 2015.

FedEx

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National COSH says three workers died at FedEx’s Memphis hub in 2022. The family of one of those workers, killed in a forklift accident, recently filed a wrongful death lawsuit seeking $3.5 million.

Not even a week into 2023, a 29-year-old FedEx employee in North Dakota was reportedly crushed to death.

Lithko Contracting

Construction site scaffolding
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Three construction workers reportedly died earlier this year when scaffolding collapsed on a construction project in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The project was an apartment tower for Hanover Co., a real estate business with its own construction division. But work was being done by Lithko Contracting, a company that National COSH says has been cited nine times by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, including for a now-deleted scaffolding violation.

On its “dirty dozen” list, National COSH also mentions Friends Masonry Construction, which is the company that employed the men.

Norfolk Southern (and other rail companies)

Norfolk Southern rail car
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In February, a Norfolk Southern train carrying toxic chemicals derailed in a small Ohio town. The National Traffic Safety Bureau is only now holding an investigative hearing about it, and the cause and responsibility are still being debated.

Norfolk Southern is fighting lawsuits from the state and federal government which claim, in part, that the company reduced spending on inspection, repair and service of its freight cars and pay for train crews. The company denies lobbying against environmental and railroad safety regulations, although National COSH says rail workers have warned of the safety problems before.

National COSH also points a finger at other railroad operating companies, including BNSF, CSX, Kansas City Southern, Union Pacific, Canadian Pacific and Canadian National Railway.

Occidental Chemical and Westlake Chemical

Occidental Chemical Corporation
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Olin Corp., a chemical company that still uses asbestos, recently endorsed a federal ban on the fibrous silicate material. Asbestos has been known for decades to cause cancer, and thousands of Americans die from asbestos-related illnesses each year.

According to National COSH, other chemical companies, including Occidental Chemical Corp. (known as OxyChem) and Westlake Chemical, continue to support the use of asbestos. For that, the organization awarded them a place on its “dirty dozen” list.

Packer’s Sanitation Services (and multiple meat and poultry producers)

Tyson Foods Complex in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania
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A food safety sanitation company called Packer’s Sanitation Services was found by the U.S. Labor Department to have more than 100 children (from 13 to 17 years of age) illegally working in hazardous jobs and overnight shifts in 13 meatpacking and slaughterhouse facilities in eight states.

Most of them worked at facilities operated by JBS Foods, Cargill or Tyson, according to National COSH.

Sonoma WISE

California farmer on a tractor
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A wine industry group called Sonoma WISE (Wine Industry for Safe Employees) has denied farmworkers’ claims that growers are allowing wildfire and other safety risks to continue. The group was apparently formed specifically to respond to complaints about safety, the North Bay Business Journal reports.

However, National COSH says they put workers at risk. In its press release naming the “dirty dozen” employers, the organization says, “Despite opposition from growers using astroturf tactics, California farmworkers win significant victories to counter extreme weather hazards caused by climate change.”

Swissport International AG Companies

Swissport International
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Swissport, a company that offers cleaning services for airlines such as Spirit Airlines and Air Canada, allegedly doesn’t provide adequate equipment for cleaning plane toilets which “often results in workers getting sprayed with human waste,” according to The Guardian.

Workers are expected to share a single face shield for the task and are given 10 minutes to sanitize an entire plane, says one former employee who says he was once “drenched” in human waste.

Since 2013, the company has been cited 35 times by OSHA for safety violations, National COSH says.

Tenet Healthcare Corporation

Tenet Health
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Since 2001, Tenet Health “has paid over $1.8 billion in fines for false claims, bribery and kickbacks, health and safety and other violations,” National COSH says.

The Massachusetts Nurse Association, which has held strikes over working conditions, says it has documented dozens of grievances at one hospital, ranging from Tenet allowing water to be shut off to failing to maintain needed medical and cleaning supplies “while raking in hundreds of millions of dollars in profits.”

Tesla

Ivan Marc / Shutterstock.com

Tesla is no stranger to safety controversies. A recent leak by a Tesla whistleblower revealed thousands of customer safety complaints. And a hacker claims to have found a secret “Elon Mode” with reduced safety precautions for self-driving in certain Tesla vehicles.

But the safety issues also reportedly extend to the company’s employees. “Worker testimony shows contractors pass out fake certificates instead of providing real safety training,” National COSH says.

Lax safety measures reportedly led to an employee being crushed to death in February, and surviving employees complained their bonuses were cut because of the fatality, according to news reports.

Trulieve Cannabis Corp.

Trulieve
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A 27-year-old worker reportedly died of an asthma attack last year after inhaling ground cannabis dust at a Trulieve Cannabis Corp. cultivation facility. The company was fined by OSHA and agreed to conduct a hazard analysis.

In total, the company has been “cited seven times by OSHA for safety violations,” National COSH says.

Twin Peaks Restaurant

Twin Peaks restaurant
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This restaurant chain, which along with others such as Hooters are sometimes called “breastaurants,” has faced a lawsuit and sexual harassment claims over its work culture.

Earlier this year, workers at a Tennessee restaurant went on strike over a physically and verbally abusive manager, according to news reports.

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