Randy Piche, a long-time Hampton Roads Sanitation District employee, died Tuesday morning after falling through an opening on a third-floor walkway at the Army Base Treatment Plant in Norfolk on Tuesday morning. Neither the wastewater and sewage-treatment organization nor the Virginia Occupational Safety and Health department have yet determined why Piche, a 37-year HRSD veteran, would have fallen to his death.
Industrial plants are inherently dangerous places to work. In Virginia alone, more than 150 workers died in workplace accidents during 2008. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration posts weekly summaries of deaths at work on its Web site. The most recent set of summaries, from Aug. 28, 2009, includes 18 entries. Listed causes of death ranged from electrocutions and crush injuries to falls and explosions.
Employers have legal and moral obligations to minimize risks to their employees. If HRSD did not have signs, guardrails or procedures in place to make it difficult or impossible to fall through the walkway opening at its plant on the grounds of the Norfolk International Terminals, then the organization would be liable for contributing to, or even, principally causing, Piche’s death.
Regardless of the cause of the accident, my thoughts go out to Piche and his friends and family. I have seen too many times the tragedies that can result when people work in unsafe conditions and environments.
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