Amazon, Norfolk Southern Railroad and Tesla are among the companies who made The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH) Dirty Dozen List for 2023.
The Dirty Dozen List is an annual list of the worst safety offenders and workers’ rights violators in the U.S. In making the list, National COSH solicits information from its network of health and safety activists about companies that put workers and communities at risk.
Criteria for being included on the list includes:
- severity of injuries to workers
- exposure to unnecessary and preventable risk
- repeat citations by state and federal authorities, and
- activity by workers and their allies to improve their health and safety conditions.
The list is released annually during Workers’ Memorial Week, April 24 through April 28, 2023, and coincides with the anniversary of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, which took effect April 28, 1971.
This year’s Dirty Dozen includes:
Multiple deaths at Amazon warehouses in 2022, OSHA citations at seven warehouse locations for exposing workers to ergonomic and other hazards and continuing state and federal safety investigations means the retail giant is on the Dirty Dozen List once again.
Amazon worker Rafael Reynaldo Mota Frias died from cardiac arrest at a New Jersey Amazon distribution center on July 13, 2022. It was Prime Day, a high-pressure sales event for the company, and the facility didn’t have air conditioning in its main work area, according to National COSH.
Frias was one of four U.S. Amazon workers who died on the job in July and August of 2022, with Rodger Boland and Eric Vadinsky dying in separate incidents at Amazon warehouses in New Jersey. Another Amazon worker, Alex Carillo, died in August after a forklift crash in the company’s Carlisle, Pennsylvania warehouse.
OSHA said that “Amazon’s rapid, demanding work practices ’cause serious injuries to workers,'” and in January and February 2023, the agency cited the company for exposing workers to ergonomic hazards in seven warehouses across five states.
The serious injury rate at Amazon warehouses in 2022 was 6.6 for every 100 workers, according to an analysis by the Strategic Organizing Center of data the company submitted to OSHA. That’s more than double the rate of serious injuries at non-Amazon warehouses.
Jessica James, a FedEx worker and team leader at the company’s World Hub in Memphis, Tennessee, died Feb. 18, 2022, when the forklift she was operating flipped over and landed on her as she was crossing a ramp onto a trailer.
An investigation by Tennessee OSHA found that the ramp was defective and shouldn’t have been in use. Inspection records from two months before the incident occurred stated that the ramp was severely damaged and needed repairs. The state agency found six serious safety violations and fined FedEx $26,000.
Two other Memphis-area FedEx workers were killed on the job in 2022. James Smith was crushed by a conveyor belt in May and a 48-year-old worker was killed in a two-vehicle crash in November.
Workers at two FedEx facilities in Georgia reported a lack of heat in the winter, no air conditioning in the summer, floors littered with trip and fall hazards, and falling packages that endangered their safety.
Data released by FedEx showed that the company’s lost time injury rate increased by 13.6% between 2019 and 2021 and had 15 workplace fatalities in 2021, up from 10 in 2019.
Hanover Company, Lithko Contracting, Friends Masonry
Three workers died January 2, 2023, at a Charlotte, North Carolina worksite when scaffolding they were working on collapsed.
Jose Bonilla Canaca, Gilberto Monico Fernandez and Jesus “Chuy” Olivares fell 70 feet to their deaths at the site of a planned 17-story apartment building. Hanover Company owned the project. Lithko Contracting was the construction contractor. The three workers were employed by subcontractor Friends Masonry Construction.
National COSH records showed that Lithko Contracting had been cited by OSHA 14 times for safety violations dating back to 2013. The company was also cited by Indiana OSHA in 2018 for safety violations related to scaffolding.
Norfolk Southern and all other Class One freight railroads
National COSH included Norfolk Southern, BNSF, CSX, Kansas City Southern, Union Pacific, Canadian Pacific and Canadian National Railway under one heading for this year’s Dirty Dozen List.
Why? Because “rail workers have been sounding the alarm about safety long before the derailment of a 149-car Norfolk Southern freight train created a plume of hazardous smoke that has impacted thousands of residents in East Palestine, Ohio.”
Two years before the East Palestine derailment, Jason Cox, national representative of the Brotherhood of Railway Carmen, said, “Precision scheduled railroading has cut the workforce to the bare minimum. I have witnessed railroads … demanding one minute per car for safety inspections. It’s only a matter of time before fatigued workers, unrealistic inspection policies and unqualified inspections result in a major incident in someone’s neighborhood.”
According to National COSH, over the past six years Class One freight railroads have reduced staff by 29%. U.S. Federal Railway Administration data shows that the train accident rate has increased by 25% between 2019 and 2022.
Rail workers are fatigued, overworked and on call at all hours of the day and night. For example, BNSF workers are reported to be on call 90% of the time at all hours. After they get a call, they “have to be at the railyard in about 90 minutes to two hours, and they could be gone for days.”
Occidental Chemical, Westlake Chemical
Occidental Chemical and Westlake Chemical insist that they can continue to use asbestos safely in their manufacturing facilities despite the fact that 40,000 people die each year in the U.S. from exposure to the hazardous substance.
They are two of the remaining three companies left in the U.S. that still use chrysolite asbestos to produce chlorine.
The third company, Olin Corporation, announced it would support a ban on the use of chrysolite asbestos proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Administration (EPA).
While Occidental and Westlake claim their employees know how to handle asbestos safely, workers have reported “asbestos splattered everywhere … it would be stuck to the ceiling and the walls.” One worker reported that “we were constantly swimming in this stuff.”
Packers Sanitation Service Inc., JBS Foods, Cargill, Tyson
A U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) investigation found that Packers, one of the largest food sanitation companies in the country, employed more than 100 children to clean dangerous equipment during overnight shifts at 13 meat processing plants in eight states.
Those plants were operated by JBS Foods, Cargill and Tyson.
National COSH states that “meat and poultry processing is among the nation’s most hazardous injuries” where “workers suffer high rates of amputations, broken bones, illnesses and fatalities.”
In one case, a 13-year-old girl was assigned to a night shift at a Grand Island, Nebraska plant owned by JBS. Her job duties included scouring “blood and beef fat from the slippery ‘kill floor,’ using high-pressure hoses, scalding water and industrial foams and acids.”
In August 2022, a middle school nurse found chemical burns, blisters and open wounds on her hands and one knee, bringing her employment to an end.
Packers agreed to pay more than $1.5 million in fines. Another $1.3 million in fines were assessed to JBS Foods, Cargill and Tyson.
However, National COSH states that JBS Foods, Cargill and Tyson “have paid no fines and face no criminal penalties,” while Packers “paid to settle the case but also faces no criminal penalties.”
Sonoma County is the heart of California’s wine country, with 1,800 wine grape growers and 60,000 acres of vineyards.
The farmworkers in the region “face health hazards from wildfires and extreme heat,” according to National COSH. Farmworkers are 20 times more likely than workers in other occupations to die from heat-related causes. Wildfire smoke can cause asthma and other respiratory diseases.
During wildfires, these farmworkers were “instructed to report to work in areas where residents and other businesses had been evacuated.”
The farmworkers organized to fight for better safety on the job, demanding hazard pay, disaster insurance, access to clean bathrooms and water, and community safety observers.
In response, several grape grower companies formed a group called Wine Industry for Safe Employees (WISE). They began lobbying county officials to reject those farmworker demands.
Swissport International AG companies
Swissport International AG is a global firm that provides baggage, fueling, cleaning and other services to major airlines. Swissport workers say that they’re exposed to hazardous conditions on the job, including exposure to human feces.
Faulty equipment for cleaning airport toilets results in workers being sprayed with lavatory waste. Workers claim the company knows the equipment is malfunctioning but refuse to fix it.
OSHA has cited Swissport 35 times for safety violations over the past decade. The violations resulted from
preventable incidents in which workers suffered bone fractures, crushed limbs and other injuries.
Tenet HealthCare Corporation
Tenet HealthCare has more than 100,000 employees and hundreds of hospitals, surgical centers and outpatient facilities.
The company’s doctors, nurses and support staff reported that it cuts corners on patient and employee safety and retaliates against workers who speak out about unsafe conditions.
Employees have filed safety complaints against the company for failing to observe COVID-19 safety protocols and failure to provide PPE and sufficient staffing levels.
Tenet has paid more than $1.8 billion in fines and penalties to federal and state governments between 2001 and 2022 for false claims, bribery and kickbacks, violations of Medicare regulations, health and safety violations and wages and hour violations, according to National COSH.
A Tesla “gigafactory” is being built in Austin, Texas, as part of the Colorado River Project LLC, which is owned by the company.
Through the Colorado River Project, Tesla signed an agreement with Travis County with pledges to maintain a safe workplace. The company agreed that construction contractors and subcontractors would “maintain all relevant level 10 and level 30 OSHA-approved construction safety and certification.”
A complaint filed with the U.S. DOL in November 2022 accused the company of violating that pledge. One worker claimed he and others “were provided with fake certificates from a project subcontractor, falsely claiming they had completed required safety courses.”
Another worker, Antelmo Ramirez, died from extreme heat while working for Belcan Services Group, a contractor working on the gigafactory. OSHA cited Belcan for a serious health and safety violation and recommended a fine of $14,502. A lawsuit filed by Ramirez’s family claims that Tesla “failed to properly hire, train and manage independent contractors” and failed to “monitor the temperature and weather conditions at the worksite.”
Tesla itself has a long history of safety violations, with OSHA data showing more than 170 safety citations against the company and its subsidiaries at 73 locations between 2013 and 2022. Those citations include incidents with workers suffering fractures, burns, lacerations and amputations.
Trulieve Cannabis Corp.
On Jan. 7, 2022, Lorna McMurrey suffered a severe asthma attack after inhaling cannabis dust at a Truelieve marijuana production facility in Holyoke, Massachusetts. McMurrey died in the hospital several days later.
OSHA investigated the facility following McMurrey’s death and issued citations for failing to evaluate chemical hazards. The agency recommended fines of $35,000. Truelieve had been cited by OSHA seven times since 2019 for various safety violations, including an incident in Pennsylvania where a worker was exposed to live wiring and suffered a “non-fatal electrocution.”
Workers have reported that the company doesn’t pay sufficient attention to worker safety and doesn’t provide proper N95 masks.
Twin Peaks Restaurant
Twin Peaks is a restaurant franchise similar in concept to Hooters. Waitresses in certain locations have called for safety training to deal with aggressive customers and security guards to keep them safe when they leave the facility.
The restaurant chain has faced multiple lawsuits and discrimination claims, with employees claiming they were subjected to unwanted touching, lewd comments and other sexual harassment from management and customers.