In June of 2016, a longshoreman and member of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), Jimmie Meadows, fell and was fatally injured at the Weyerhauser Co. log yard at the Port of Longview in Washington. He died a few days later in a hospital in Portland. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) began an investigation, which concluded several months later. OSHA determined that SSA Pacific, the company that hired Meadows, had not provided him or other workers with a safe work environment or protection from falls.
The Fatal Fall
Meadows was a 48-year-old longshoreman from Longview, Washington, who had been in the business and a member of the ILWU for many years. He was an experienced and dedicated worker. On the day the incident occurred Meadows was working as a longshore foreman for SSA Pacific who had hired him to load logs onto ships at the Weyerhauser yard.
The accident occurred when Meadows fell ten feet onto the metal deck of a bulk carrier cargo ship, the Forest Trader, registered in Panama. Emergency responders arrived quickly on the scene and found Meadows unconscious. It was not immediately obvious why or how he fell, if some kind of health incident had caused him to fall or if the accident occurred because of a lack of safety equipment. Meadows was rushed to the hospital in Portland, Oregon, but died from his injuries days later.
OSHA Investigation and Citation
OSHA began investigating the incident immediately to determine the cause of the fall and if any negligence was involved. After several months the agency concluded its investigation and announced it would be citing SSA Pacific for safety violations in what it called a preventable accident and tragedy. The investigation concluded that if proper safety measures had been taken and followed, Meadows would not have fallen and ultimately passed away.
OSHA stated that it had found SSA Pacific guilty of failing to provide its workers with protection from falls into the cargo holds and hatches of ships. The inspecting agents found that there were multiple areas that were hazardous and could have led to falls. These areas lacked nets and other safety features that could have saved Meadows’s life. OSHA also noted that it had cited SSA Pacific for similar safety violations over the last few years in locations including Florida and Oregon.
Companies like SSA Pacific have a responsibility and a legal obligation to take all reasonable measures to provide workers with safe environments and to prevent such tragic accidents as what occurred when Meadows fell. When these companies fail to put safety measures into place, workers suffer. Citations like those issued by OSHA are supposed to force employers to comply with safety regulations, but those earlier citations for SSA Pacific failed to help Meadows. All longshore workers are at risk of injury and even death on the job. These are dangerous workplaces, but when employers fail to take prescribed steps to make them safer, people suffer. If you have been injured on a longshore work site, you have rights and may be able to seek damages or compensation.