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Worker's death at sugar plant leads to OSHA investigation

Working in a factory can be a dangerous way to make a living. The proximity of workers to heavy machinery can lead to injuries and even death. Recently a 28-year-old woman was killed in an on-the-job accident at a sugar processing factory in Lovell, Wyoming. According to a news report, the woman died after falling into some industrial equipment at the plant, which is owned by a co-op that has operations in Montana.

The incident happened on a Saturday night. The woman had fallen into a lift station, a piece of equipment that is part of the plant's water system. Local police and the county sheriff's office were dispatched to the scene. Emergency personnel worked through the night and into Sunday morning to remove the victim from the equipment.

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration is conducting an investigation into the incident. The plant is owned and operated by Western Sugar Cooperative. The agricultural co-op is owned by sugar beet growers and has plants in Wyoming, Montana and other states.

If the OSHA investigation turns up any unsafe working conditions that led to the accident, the plant could be cited for OSHA violations and the co-op could potentially face fines and penalties.

When a worker is killed on the job, their surviving family members are entitled to recover workers' compensation death benefits. The death benefits are based on a percentage of the income the deceased victim earned.

The workers' compensation system is a trade-off between the interests of the employer and the injured or deceased worker. The worker or their family are entitled to recover benefits without having to prove the employer was at fault. The employer, on the other hand, is liable only for the statutory workers' compensation benefits and is immune from a civil lawsuit in which there would be potentially no cap on the damages recovered. There are exceptions, of course. An experienced Montana workers' compensation attorney can help the family of a deceased worker understand their rights and make sure they get all the compensation to which they are entitled.

Source: KTVQ.com, "Death investigated at Wyoming sugar factory," Jan. 6, 2014

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