When 20-year-old Regina Elsea began working for a Cusseta manufacturer
in Alabama in 2016, stamping parts for Hyundai and Kia vehicles, she had
no idea of the risk she was taking. Just a few months after starting her
job at the auto plant, a machine broke down, halting production completely.
The workers had quotas to hit before the end of the day, and called maintenance
over immediately to repair the machine, but help never came. After attempting
to fix the malfunctioning machine herself, Elsea was caught and injured,
leading to her death a mere 2 weeks before her wedding.
Regina Elsea is one example of the many unfortunate workers who endure
hazardous conditions in auto manufacturing plants in southern states.
In a report by the U.S. Department of Safety and Labor, Dr. David Michaels,
Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, stated
“This senseless tragedy could have been prevented if Regina Elsea’s
employers had followed proper safety precautions.” After investigation,
the plant was issued citations for 23 violations, some of which were classified
as willfully endangering to the workers.
In Elsea’s case, she, along with her fellow workers, had not been
trained in proper safety procedures, including how to safely lock the
machine when it was malfunctioning. The Occupational Safety and Health
Administration states that learning this procedure, which is federal law,
likely would have saved Regina Elsea’s life. A month prior to her
injury, the plant Elsea worked at was notified of safety violations that
resulted in 8 other workers’ injuries, according to an article in
Auto manufacturing plants are common in the south, especially in Georgia,
Alabama, Tennessee and Mississippi. However, South Carolina takes the
cake as the leader in the auto manufacturing economy in the Unites States,
which, according to The Huffington Post, is continuing to grow. Learning
proper safety procedures should be a priority for these manufacturers,
but workers report that the higher-ups repeatedly remind them of the need
to meet production demands at all costs. Often, this means failing to
teach new workers proper machine safety, or refusing to provide tired
workers with necessary breaks, or installing affordable safety mechanisms
on dangerous machines.
While the U.S. Department of Labor monitors these issues and the Occupational
Safety and Health Administration issues citations and fines for violations,
the problems persist. In 2014, Nathaniel Walker, a factory worker in Pell
City, Alabama, fell into a vat of acid while cleaning ventilation ducts.
His plant did not cover the vats, as they should have, nor did they supply
workers, like Walker with gangways, gables, or handrails to help them
balance while preforming their duties. In 2015, a maintenance worker caught
fire in a manufacturing plant in Winterville, Georgia, after the company
failed to address 4 recent duct fires.
Reco Allen, who worked the night shift at a Matsu Alabama plant to support
his 3 children, lost his arm in an accident with a heated press in 2013.
Allen hadn’t been trained in proper operating procedure for the
machine, and the safety bar that was supposed to protect him failed. Reports
later revealed that the plant manager had recently recommended a $6,000
safety beam be installed for the machine that later injured Allen, but
the company’s vice present opted for a $150 safety bar instead.
When large, powerful companies blatantly ignore the federal laws set in
place to uphold safety procedures, every worker should remain watchful
and aware. Know when to exercise your right to safe working conditions
and seek justice if you or a loved one has been wrongfully injured at
work. In the case of Regina Elsea, her mother filed a wrongful death lawsuit
against the company and continues to fight for justice on her daughter’s
behalf. An investigation has also be underway to learn more about the
causes of Elsea’s death. Reco Allen sued the company he worked for
when he suffered his arm injury and reached a multimillion-dollar settlement.
However, when asked about his settlement, Allen responded, “I’d
rather have my arm back any day.”
To learn more about the hazardous cost accompanying the boom in the auto
manufacturing industry in Alabama,
If you or a loved one has suffered an injury at work or you endure unsafe
work conditions, don’t wait to seek legal help.
Contact Jordan Law Center, today to find out if you have a personal injury case!