The U.S. government issued penalties of just over $128,000 this month to a peach and pecan farm near Macon. The fines were for safety violations found after the death of an employee in August last year at its post-harvest operations.

Long-time employee suddenly killed at work

The 56-year-old man had worked for the same farm as a farmer for more than ten years. Just before noon on August 5, “he was doing normal parts of his job,” when a pallet on a forklift struck his head, according to the county coroner quoted in media reports. He died at the hospital from blunt force trauma less than an hour later.

OSHA sends its inspectors

After such incidents, the federal agency overseeing safe and healthy working conditions investigates what happened and why. But it does not stop with the details of the tragedy itself.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) also usually studies the working conditions and safety standards that the company’s workers deal with every day. Commonly, when one person dies on the company’s watch, there are many other dangers in the shop that need attention.

OSHA cited the farm for conditions leading to the farmer’s death. But the farm also faces citations for chemical, amputation and falling hazards. OSHA also cites violations related to:

  • A warning system to detect anhydrous ammonia leaks.
  • An emergency response plan.
  • Worker training in responding to anhydrous ammonia leaks.
  • Machine guarding.
  • Lockout/tagout procedures.

Wrongful death lawsuits in Georgia

The incident is an ongoing story. There is no word yet on whether the employee’s family plans any legal action, and it is the complex question that news reports cannot answer. Besides, the company has 15 days to respond to the proposed OSHA actions.

But workplace accidents can cause employers, families and attorneys to consult Georgia’s wrongful death statutes.

In such suits, Georgia families might seek compensation for the lost wages and job benefits, and for intangible emotional benefits, that the person would have given if they had lived. Family might also seek to recover costs related to the person’s death itself, such as medical expenses, funeral costs and pain the person suffered just before dying.

Ordinarily, the family must file any wrongful death lawsuit within two years of the death, although certain issues can pause that timer temporarily.