WASHINGTON, D.C. — Janeth Caicedo still recalls her last conversation with her brother Edilberto Caicedo.
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“On Aug. 19, 2019, my brother came to my bedroom door and said, ‘Hey, monster, it’s time to go to work,’” said Janeth Caicedo in her testimony to the House Workforce Protections subcommittee.
Later that August day, tragedy struck.
Edilberto Caicedo’s skull was crushed in a forklift accident at the New Jersey warehouse where he was a temporaru worker.
“I received a call that my brother Edilberto was at the hospital with a very, very dangerous injury in his brain,” said Janeth Caicedo. “He died four days later.”
She testified before a House subcommittee about her brother’s death to shed light on the dangers that warehouse workers face.
“Temporary warehouse workers like my brother could not speak up about safety risks and expect to keep their jobs,” said Caicedo.
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Lawmakers on the subcommittee said the demand for warehouse workers has soared since the start of the pandemic, jumping by more than a third since January 2020 to 1.8 million workers.
Democrats on the subcommittee called for stricter oversight of warehouse worker safety.
“We should all agree that warehouse workers like Edilberto should not have to risk their lives to provide for themselves and their families, and we must ensure that employers are held accountable when tragedies occur,” said Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC).
Republicans on the subcommittee argued more government regulations are not the answer and instead called for increased education and business partnership programs.
“Sending OSHA and its aggressive playbook after business owners will not make warehouses safer, but it will harm our economy and workforce,” said Rep. Fred Keller (R-PA).
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Testimony from the warehousing sector said the industry has made changes to make the workplace safer, including increasing and improving educational programs aimed at reducing workplace injuries and implementing a buddy system at some businesses.
“Employers in the warehousing and distribution sector have benefited from careful, introspective examination of internal injury and illness data,” said Manesh Rath, a partner at Keller & Heckman, who has represented industry groups and employers. “On that basis, in our work we have observed that employers have devised a number of improvements, both to their physical plants and to the administrative practice of their operations, which, in our observations of those worksites, has led to significant reductions in workplace injuries and illnesses.”
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