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OSHA opens investigation into death of employee killed by runaway truck

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has dispatched an investigator to American Samoa following an industrial fatality more than a week ago.


As previously reported by Samoa News, a 49-year-old truck driver from Vatia died after a container truck ran over him, as the vehicle rolled down a hill. The driver was employed by Reid Stevedoring, which owns the container truck.


Responding to Samoa News questions, the USDOL’s San Francisco office spokesman Jose Carnevali says OSHA was notified about this case on Apr. 11 (which is also the date of the incident).


“It is an active case and it is under investigation in American Samoa,” he said via email. “As far as timing, OSHA has up to 6 months to complete their investigation, but we can't say how long the investigation will actually take.”


The Department of Public Safety is conducting the local investigation and has not released the name of the deceased, whose wife arrived on the scene not long after the accident.


Mata Siona, an eyewitness at the scene told Samoa News that he saw a container truck coming down the hill, and saw a man running towards the container truck with a rock. He said that the man attempted to place the rock near the tire in order to stop the truck.


However the attempt was unsuccessful as the truck ran right over the rock. The driver then tried to get into the truck however his leg hit something, and he landed flat on his face. At that point, the tractor part of truck went over the man, according to the witness.


A USDOL report released in February this year shows that there were six worker fatalities in American Samoa between 2004 and 2013. For 2013 there were two industrial fatalities, which included a painter who fell 24 feet to the ground, and a worker electrocuted during a crane operation.


Meanwhile, OSHA announced early last week that it is launching a local emphasis program to prevent retail sector injuries and fatalities in American Samoa, Hawai’i, Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.


OSHA’s Honolulu area office acting director Mike Rivera says the federal agency is not in the business of waiting to act only after a preventable injury or fatality occurs.


“Retail employers and workers need to be aware of hazards and risks commonly found in this industry,” Rivera said in a statement. “Stores must be safe for customers to shop and for employees to work.”


OSHA says the retail industry experienced 262 fatal occupational injuries in 2012. The injury and illness case rate for retail workers, including in the Pacific, was four per 100 full-time workers, compared with a 3.4 rate for all other private sector employees during the same period.


OSHA will conduct inspections to identify and evaluate hazards within the retail industry in Hawai’i and the territories. Targeted operation sites, such as clothing stores, department stores, general merchandise stores and other miscellaneous retailers, can expect random inspections.


OSHA also will respond to complaints, referrals and fatalities related to retail operations. (There was no data available at press time on local retailers being fined or cited for health and safety violations in the last four years).


Employers and employees with questions regarding workplace safety and health standards may call OSHA’s Honolulu Area Office at (808) 541-2680.