Florida Landscaping Company Faces Hefty Fines After Worker’s Death

Employers need to ensure that employees work in a safe environment. This is not only the law but a basic human right. Employers should not willfully cut corners on safety, especially when employers are working with tools and machinery.

An employee was killed in July after being pinned underwater by a riding lawn mower in a Palmetto neighborhood. The lawn mower had rolled into a nearby pond, pinning the employee and causing them to drown. The 36-year-old employee, who has not been identified, was employed by TruScapes Industries Inc. at the time of the fatal accident.

The company, based in Bradenton, Florida, is facing hefty fines after an investigation launched on July 4, 2023, showed that a willful safety violation led to the worker’s death. The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) investigated and recently released a statement revealing that the lawn mower’s roll-over protection system was not engaged. TruScapes Industries was cited for one willful violation for not using the rollover protection system and operating the mower on a steep slope. OSHA investigators said the employee was riding the lawn mower on a steep slope when it rolled over and landed in a water retention pond. The lawn mower was operating on the embankment that sloped 12.5 to 18.7 degrees near the pond.

The company also received a citation for not providing potable drinking water. In total, the company faces penalties totaling $166,305.

This was not the first time this incident has happened. In July 2015, TruScapes Industries was investigated after a similar fatal accident occurred in Bradenton. That case resulted in five serious citations and $18,200 in proposed penalties.

According to OSHA, employers are responsible for ensuring the correct equipment is used at all times. In addition, workers need to be protected from hazards associated with assigned job tasks. OSHA is frustrated that the company did not learn from its actions the first time around. Its failure to implement required safety measures has cost the life of a worker. The agency claims that TruScapes Industries could have avoided the incident by following the required safety measures outlined in the equipment operator’s manual.

TruScapes Industries employs about 150 workers. The company has 15 business days from the receipt of the citations to take action. They can comply and pay the fines, request a conference with OSHA, or contest the agency’s findings.

What Happens When an Employee is Killed in the Workplace?

A workplace death is a serious situation that will likely have legal as well as financial ramifications. When an employee is killed in the workplace, here’s a look at what typically happens:

  • There will likely be an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the employee’s death. This investigation may involve law enforcement and workplace safety agencies (such as OSHA in the United States).
  • In the case of a wrongful death, the employee’s family may pursue legal action against the employer if it can be proven that they were negligent or forced the employee to work in unsafe conditions, and this led to the death. Workers’ compensation benefits or insurance policies may also come into play to provide financial support for dependents.
  • Workplace safety measures. An employee’s death may prompt an employer and relevant authorities to review and implement additional safety measures to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future. This could involve changes in workplace policies and training. In extreme cases, new state or federal laws may even be implemented,
  • Emotional impact. A worker’s death will undoubtedly have a profound emotional impact on their family and friends. Even their colleagues will be affected and they may even be scared that they could be the next victim. The employer may offer counseling services or other forms of support.
  • Legal obligations. Employers have legal obligations to provide a safe working environment for their employees. When an employee dies while on the job, they will have to comply with various agencies, such as OSHA and possibly the local sheriff’s department. They may be fined and penalized in other ways.

Contact Us Today

When employees die at work, it needs to be thoroughly looked into. It is important to investigate the situation and hold employers liable for their negligence, if applicable.

Workers’ compensation laws can be complex. What actions can you take if you or a loved one is injured or killed in the workplace? The team at Brill & Rinaldi, The Law Firm, can help you understand your legal options. Call (954) 876-4344 or fill out the online form to schedule a free consultation with our office. We have offices in Weston, Coral Gables, and Daytona Beach.