Teenage workers lose legs; grain company has no workers’ comp insurance
Reposted with permission from the Enid News and Eagle.
Zaloudek Grain Co., where Bryce Gannon and Tyler Zander each lost a leg after they were caught in an auger on Aug. 4, did not have workers’ compensation insurance at the time of the accident.
Oklahoma Department of Labor has fined the company $750 for failing to comply with workers’ compensation law — the maximum fine allowed in the scenario under current law.
Oklahoma law permits the Labor Department to fine employers a penalty of $250 per employee for a first offense. However, employers that obtain workers’ compensation insurance within 30 days of receiving notice of the violation can only be fined $75 per employee for a first offense.
“An investigation by the Oklahoma Department of Labor reveals that Zaloudek Grain Co. had not carried workers’ compensation insurance for the five months prior to the accident,” Labor Commissioner Mark Costello said. “Zaloudek had obtained workers’ compensation insurance on Aug. 9, five days after the horrific accident. Under existing law, all Zaloudek could be cited for was one violation that involved 10 employees for a mere penalty of $75 per employee, for a total of only $750.”
According to Ray Andrews, director of the employment standards division of the state Labor Department, Zaloudek Grain still has time to either pay the penalty or request a hearing in the matter.
“Last I’m aware of, there has been no response,” Andrews said.
Don Schooler, general counsel for the Labor Department, said a workers’ compensation policy picked up after the accident will not cover the teens’ injuries.
“It will not be retroactive,” he said. “Any injury that would have occurred prior to their compensation coverage will not be covered.”
Elizabeth Todd, spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Labor, said the Occupational Safety and Health Administration still is investigating the accident. No information will be available until the investigation is complete, she said. OSHA has up to six months to complete its investigation.
“It’s a complex investigation,” Todd said of the Zaloudek incident.
Todd said Zaloudek Grain also is being investigated by the federal Department of Labor’s wage and hour division.
“Wage and hour does not have a time limit,” Todd said. “Information on that will be available whenever the investigation completes.”
An employee at Zaloudek Grain said no one was available Monday to speak to the News & Eagle.
“He has gone home for the day,” the employee said.
Both Zander and Gannon continue to recover from their injuries. Gannon is expected to return home soon. He attended the Kremlin-Hillsdale High School football game Friday night, where he was named homecoming king.
Zander remains hospitalized at OU Medical Center in Oklahoma City.