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Transportation agency fined $1.3 million over workers' deaths

Employers, even government agencies, which violate workplace safety regulations can place the lives of their workers at risk. This month, the California Public Utilities Commission imposed a fine of $1.3 million on the Bay Area Rapid Transit Agency for safety violations that caused the deaths of two workers when a train struck them in October 2013. A civil lawsuit and a workers' compensation claim were also filed for this crash while fines were earlier imposed on BART for similar workplace accidents.

In that incident, a train traveling 60 to 70 mph struck two BART workers, a track engineer, and contract employee when they were inspecting a dip in the tracks. According to autopsy reports, both workers had their backs turned to the trains at the time of impact. This indicated that neither worker acted as a lookout as required by BART's policy.

The train was operating automatically and conducting a routine maintenance run even though most BART trains were idled by a worker strike. A manager undergoing training to perform driver duties during the strike was at the controls.

BART will pay only half of the $1.3 million. It was placed on three-year's worth of probation and will pay the remaining $650,000 if it violates any safety rules during the probation.

The family of the contract employee who was killed in the crash sued BART in 2014. His family claimed that the agency acted negligently when it issued a work order indicating that the two workers would be three miles away from the crash site and on a different stretch of tracks. The person training the operator was also negligently and recklessly sitting in the passenger area with three other employees and another trainee instead of being in his assigned position in the control cab. This lawsuit was settled. In addition, a workers' compensation claim was filed.

Cal/OSHA also claimed that BART deliberately violated safety rules when it allowed these two workers to inspect tracks under a policy where workers were solely responsible for their own safety. It imposed a $210,000 fine on BART in 2014.

This policy was also blamed for similar fatalities in 2001 and 2008. Now, trains must slow down when traveling to work sites. BART also imposed other safety measures and invested $2 million in protective barriers in an attempt to alleviate safety concerns.

In instances like these, an attorney can help workers and their families seek compensation for workplace injuries. They can help assure that there are consequences when an employer violates safety regulations and fight to find a favorable resolution in the most difficult of times.

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