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Fallen Workers: Brandon Taylor, North Carolina

NC OSHA often assesses paltry fines in cases involving worker deaths, even when serious violations are found. One exception to this rule in 2012 was the case involving the death of 26-year-old Brandon Taylor from inhalation of hydrogen sulfide gas at the Smithfield Packing plant in Clinton, N.C.

Brandon was cleaning out a waste tanker at the plant when he was overcome by fumes and went into cardiac arrest. He was found with his head in the opening of the tanker. NC OSHA cited Smithfield with 12 violations, including 7 “serious” and 3 “willful” violations. The “willful” category – indicating that the company knew it was exposing workers to serious hazards but did it anyway – is rarely used by NC OSHA. Its application in this case allowed for a far great penalty than usual—a total of $238,125, later reduced to $161,525.

For a large corporation such as Smithfield, $160,000 is not a great deal of money. But at least in this case, unlike in the deaths of Luis Martinez and Terry Palmer, NC OSHA sent a message that disregard for worker safety would bring more than a slap on the wrist.

Read other stories of fallen workers. Learn more about Workers' Memorial Week of Action.