North Carolina Workplace Accident Kills Retired Farmer at Cotton Gin Warehouse

A family man from Trenton was killed in a workplace accident at a North Carolina cotton gin warehouse recently after taking a second job to earn extra money for Christmas gifts. WCTI 12 reports there were no witnesses, but family members are speculating that a large cotton bale fell on the 62-year-old man while operating or working near a forklift at the Jones County warehouse.
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Gastonia workers’ compensation lawyers know that when worker safety does not take precedent at a work site, serious and fatal accidents can happen. Large machinery and farm equipment present many dangers, especially when employers don’t take the initiative to provide workers with proper training on how to operate them safely.

We posted recently on our North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Blog that the fatality rate in the farming industry in 2009 was 24.7 deaths per 100,000 workers. In many cases, overturned tractors or farm equipment is a common cause of death for farmers.

According to the North Carolina Department of Labor, the Agriculture Safety and Health Bureau conducted 76 farming industry compliance inspections in 2010. More than 60 percent of the inspections resulted in citations. In 2010, a total of $73,025 in penalties was issued in North Carolina as a result of 182 violations in agriculture safety and health.

In the Trenton incident, the retired farmer was conscious when help arrived but he suffered from a traumatic injury with severe lacerations to his head, face and left side. He was taken to Lenoir Memorial Hospital by ambulance and later transported by helicopter to Pitt County Memorial Hospital where he died following surgery. The incident is under investigation by the North Carolina Department of Labor.

Administrative records from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) do not indicate any previous worker safety violations or citations at the cotton gin warehouse since its opening in 1998. The warehouse employs 50 to 99 workers and nets $10 to $20 million in revenue annually.

The Department of Environmental Health and Safety at Iowa State University offer these safety tips to farmers while operating large farm equipment:

-Never attempt to operate equipment without being trained or reading the operator’s manual.

-Wear protective equipment like heavy gloves or boots, eye or ear protection, and overalls that fit properly.

-Most farm equipment is meant for one person so never carry or transport a passenger on sprayers, combines, tractors, fork lifts or other types of equipment.

-All farm machinery should come equipped and never be operated without protective safety guards.

-Only operate a tractor equipped with Roll-over Protective Structures.

-Falling Object Protective Structures should always come equipped on front-end loaders or other farming equipment that present a hazard for falling debris or struck-by accidents.

-Develop a system of hand gestures when using loud machinery that allows you to communicate with other workers in a safe manner.

-Kill the engine when leaving a piece of machinery sitting stationary, especially when checking a maintenance problem or cleaning out a clogged area. Engage the brakes and remove the keys at the end of the workday.

-Drive at an appropriate speed for the task you are performing and never operate farm equipment under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

If you have been injured by farm equipment or a farm-related accident while working in North or South Carolina, contact the workers’ compensation attorneys at Lee Law Offices P.A. for a free consultation. To speak to someone about your rights or filing a claim, call 1-800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:
Family:Man Killed in Work Accident Took the Job for Christmas Money, by Jon Erickson, WCTI 12.

More Blog Entries:
North Carolina Employers Average 3.6 Violations per Safety and Health Compliance Inspection in 2010, North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Blog, November 18, 2011.

OSHA Cites Industrial Facility Lacking Worker Safeguards with $113,400 in Fines, North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Blog, November 9, 2011.

Grain Elevator Explosions Put Workers at Risk of Burn and Other Injuries, North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Blog, November 7, 2011.

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