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Workplace safety reform demanded in Tennessee

Several Tennessee-based advocates of workplace safety have rallied together in an effort to reform the standards involved in work-related safety. Within six months in Tennessee, three workers tragically died on bridge projects. Two of those deaths took place in Knoxville and one in Memphis. Now, advocates from East Tennessee are standing up to say that something must be done to prevent workplace accidents.

In October 2011, the Tennessee Occupational Health and Safety Administration released a report indicating that investigations into each of the three deaths revealed severe safety violations. However, TOSHA fined employers less than $30,000 for those violations. Britton Bridge and Mountain States were the two general contracting companies hired for the projects in which the three men were killed. According to a report by the Knoxville News Sentinel, the general contractors will pay a mere fraction of the overall monetary awards they've received through public contracts with the Tennessee Department of Transportation.

Construction workers face inherent dangers as a routine part of their jobs. However, advocates for workplace safety believe that the risk of workplace accidents could be lessened if proper protocol were in place. They argue that penalties for safety violations should be stiff enough to change an employer's or general contractor's behavior where safety is concerned. It has also been proposed that law enforcement investigations should take place when gross or repeated negligence is found in any particular employer.

Workers' compensation benefits are in place to protect employees and their families from the financial hardships often associated with a work-related injury. However, obtaining workers' compensation after an accident isn't always easy. An experienced workers' compensation attorney may be able to help guide you through the process.

Source: Knoxville News Sentinel, "Paul Deleon, Steve Kirkland and Josh Wright: Workplace safety reform needed," Jan. 21, 2012

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