During an historic storm of tornadoes that hit the Midwest U.S. this weekend, multiple workers lost their lives needlessly when a candle factory in Kentucky and an Amazon warehouse in Illinois were destroyed by the tornadoes. Investigations are underway over reports that workers were told to remain at work despite multiple tornado warnings and under threat of being fired. While tornadoes are inevitable in some regions, putting workers in harm’s way is not.
At least 8 people died at the candle factory and 6 at the collapsed Amazon warehouse. OSHA is opening an investigation into workplace safety and health violations, and inspectors working at the Amazon site have 6 months to complete an investigation.
Multiple workers at the candle factory reported being told by managers that they would risk being fired if they left to shelter in their homes. Ensuring the safety of workers should be the number one priority of employers as mandated by federal OSHA standards. Unfortunately, worker safety is often sacrificed for production priorities and economic concerns.
Existing OSHA standards require employers to have an emergency plan in place and to go over this plan with all employees. However, also ensuring workers are given the power to know and assert their rights to safe working conditions, is essential to healthy work and to preventing tragedies like this from happening again.