Stop Employers From Having Immunity

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On September 3, 2019, my son was employed with J&M Tank Lines, Inc. in Sylacauga, Alabama. My son’s job was to enter tankers after a delivery to wash it out before the next job. The worksite was and is governed by OSHA regulations. My son’s job required an entry into a confined space. OSHA regulations require employers like J&M to follow federal laws to protect its employees. Specifically, J&M was supposed to follow 29 CFR 1910.146(c)(1) which requires employers to evaluate the workplace for permit-required confined spaces; 29 CFR 1910.146(c)(2) which requires employers to inform employees of the hazards posed by the confined space; 29 CFR 1910.146(c)(4) which requires employers to implement a written permit space entry program that complied with the law; 29 CFR 1910.146(d)(5)(i) which requires the employer to evaluate the space if it is safe for an employee to enter the confined space; and 29 CFR 1910.146(g)(1) which requires employers to train employees on the procedures to safely enter, monitor and perform rescue operations if necessary.
On the day in question, my son entered a tanker and died from inhaling the deadly fumes inside the tanker. J&M did not follow federal law. It had no program in place, it did not warn my son and other employees about the dangers, it did not train my son on safe entry; and it did not train other employees on how to monitor the entrant or how to administer aid to the entrant if necessary. My son’s death is directly attributable to J&M’s failure to follow safety regulations specifically designed to protect my son and others. OSHA cited and fined J&M for its conduct.
Alabama Worker’s Compensation Statute offers J&M complete immunity even though it clearly violated federal safety laws and killed my son. Our only claim is defined by the Workers’ Compensation Statute which says my son’s life was only worth $7,500 because he was young, not married and had no children. In situations like this one, where an employer clearly violates federal safety laws, there should be an exception to absolute immunity for the employer. The OSHA penalty was reduced from $67,470 to $50,600. J&M will move to pay the inadequate fine and continue to operate. My son is gone and my family’s lives will never be the same.

I would like to see the state law changed to chip away from the complete immunity meaning that if a company breaks federal law they can be held liable for their actions.