Three Minnesota workers were electrocuted. Four fell from roofs or equipment. Other employees died from being hit by falling objects.

In each case, state investigators found shortcomings in workplace safety. In 2012, the Minnesota Occupational Safety and Health Administration closed 18 workplace fatality investigations by issuing citations to employers.

The state has had an average of 66 fatal work injuries per year between 2008 and 2011, according to MNOSHA, a division of the Department of Labor and Industry.

There were 4,693 deaths on the job nationwide in 2011, down from 14,000 in 1970, Seth D. Harris, acting U.S. secretary of labor, said last week in honor of International Workers’ Memorial Day. “But we cannot and must not say our work is done. That’s 4,693 workplace fatalities too many,” Harris said.

“We can and we must save more lives — with even stronger enforcement, even better training and outreach,” he said. He also called on employers to do their part.

Cases can take up to five years to close once an investigation is completed. Therefore, I have listed Minnesota cases that closed in 2012, regardless of when the accidents occurred. I’ve included fatalities that resulted in the 10 highest fines.

Verso Paper Corp., Sartell (Accident year: 2012) $39,200 fine

An employee died when oil in an air compressor surpassed its flash point by almost 100 degrees and the compressor burst into flames and exploded. The water supply used to cool the compressor had been shut off for maintenance.

Verso was cited for failing to make sure proper procedures were followed when shutting down equipment.

Westside Wholesale Tire, Hamel (2011) $31,100

A worker was cutting open a 55-gallon barrel when it exploded, and he was hit in the head by its lid. The worker died a month later.

Westside was cited for failing to train employees and ensure that barrels that may contain ignitable gases are properly cleaned and vented before being cut into.

Riverview LLP, Hancock (2011) $30,400

An employee working on a “manure crew” at a dairy farm was driving an ATV when it went into a ditch and hit a tree. The employee was thrown off the ATV.

Riverview was cited for failing to provide helmets and ATV training, lacking a written accident-reduction program and failing to immediately report the accident.

ACME Electric Motor Inc., doing business as ACME Tools, Bemidji (2012) $28,200

An employee standing in the basket of an aerial lift received an electric shock from an overhead power line and fell 39 feet to the ground.

ACME was cited for failing to train employees in power-line safety and failing to ensure employees wear fall-arrest equipment.

Blackowiak Disposal Inc., Mound (2011) $26,365

A worker clearing debris from the loading area of a garbage truck accidentally activated the hydraulically powered fork that lifts garbage carts for tipping. The worker was crushed between the truck and the loading gate.

Blackowiak was cited for the absence of a written accident-reduction program and the failure to train employees in proper procedures for powering down equipment.

Peine Construction Corp., Edina (2012) $25,450

While attaching trusses to a house under construction, a worker stepped from an elevated platform onto a support beam. The truss system collapsed. The worker was able to land upright on the ground, but a truss hit the employee in the head.

Peine was cited for failing to provide guard rails, safety nets or personal fall-arrest equipment for employees working at least 6 feet from the ground.

BPS Inc., Minneapolis (2012) $25,375

As a lift-truck operator was retrieving a pallet of steel from a storage rack, a part of the truck or pallet hit a 24-foot-long piece of steel stored above the pallet, causing the piece to slide off the rack and hit the operator in the head.

BPS was cited for failing to secure the steel to the rack and failing to evaluate the operator’s performance every three years.

Border Bin Erection LLC, Kerkhoven (2012) $25,350

In preparation for unloaded equipment from a flatbed truck, two employees went to get gloves while a third waited at the truck. The two employees returned to find their co-worker unresponsive on the ground with a 500-pound piece of equipment lying nearby.

Border Bin was cited for failing to secure the load on the truck and for not having an injury-reduction program in place.

RMG Construction Contractors LLC, Brooklyn Park (2011) $25,200

Employees were digging around a water pipe in a 7- to 8-foot trench when the trench wall collapsed, burying the victim up to shoulder level.

RMG was cited for lacking an injury-reduction program, failing to have the soil inspected before allowing people into the trench and failing to either sufficiently slope the trench walls or install a retaining system.

Cirrus Flight Operations Inc., Blaine (2010) $16,125

An employee was filling the 1,200-gallon fuel tank of an airplane-refueling truck. The worker was found unconscious on top of the truck with his or her head inside the truck’s inspection and ventilation hatch.

Cirrus was cited for failing to evaluate the hatch, post warnings, train employees, have an accident-reduction program in place and immediately report the incident.


Eight additional fatality cases closed in 2012 with citations. They are found online as “related content” to this article.