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OSHA investigates work injury incidents at pizza factory

Palermo's, a large pizza factory in Wisconsin, has been engaged in a dispute with workers and with government officials from the National Labor Relations Board regarding unfair labor practices. As a part of the dispute over unions and wages, OSHA began investigating accusations regarding unsafe working conditions. A report outlining work injury or illness incidents was submitted to OSHA by the company, but pertinent information in the report had been redacted.

OSHA has requested an uncensored copy of the report. In addition to the insufficient work injury reports, OSHA has also filed unsafe work practices charges in the matter of improper handling of almost 30,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia which is used in freezing foods. Due to the toxic nature of the chemical and the potential for massive injuries if mishandled, Palermo's potential fines could be as much as $38,500.

Employees of Palermo's, a high percentage of whom were immigrants, attempted to form a union through which more fair employment practices and safer working conditions could be address. This however, has met with strong opposition within the company. OSHA will continue to investigate unreported work injuries within the company. Employee cooperation with OSHA officials in providing and documenting injuries that have taken place can help bring about changes in workplace safety.

It is important that employees in factories, offices, garages or in the field know what their rights are if they suffer a work injury. In Wisconsin and in all other states, worker's compensation laws ensure that injured employees receive medical treatment and lost wages in the event they are hurt while working. If Palermo's is found to have been attempting to avoid these workers’ compensation laws, more charges against them may be pending in the future.

Source: inthesetimes.com, "Pizza-Making Strikers Win Small Slice of Justice in Milwaukee," Roger Bybee, Aug. 5, 2013

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