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Workers strike against conditions that can lead to accidents

Earlier this spring, we wrote on our Pennsylvania blog about complaints made by Amazon workers regarding dangerous conditions in the company's distribution centers. In a similar story, employees at one warehouse run by NFI Industries have organized a labor strike to raise consciousness about working conditions they say are unsafe.

NFI operates a number of warehouses that take large shipments of consumer goods and organize them for distribution to various retail store locations around the country. One labor organizer said that workers in distribution warehouses must contend with malfunctioning equipment, infrequent breaks and temperatures that can rise above 100 degrees. All of these conditions can more readily lead to workplace injuries.

The warehouses are concentrated in Southern California, and earlier this year the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health found a number of safety violations when it inspected warehouses operated by a different company. According to those inspections, the workers lacked protections against falls while working on elevated storage units within the warehouse. In addition, machinery lacked guards, and inventory was stacked precariously on shelving units. In total, the regulatory agency found in excess of 60 violations that amounted to over $250,000 in fines.

In addition, a labor representative also noted that the striking workers had little ability to obtain healthcare benefits. Dangerous working conditions combined with a lack of healthcare can pose serious risks to the safety of workers. But workers are not entirely without protection. Those who are injured on the job can find assistance in workers' compensation laws, which provide benefits payments for medical costs in addition to lost wages.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "Inland Empire warehouse workers walk off job, protest conditions," Ronald D. White, Sept. 12, 2012

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