WASHINGTON, D.C. — Janeth Caicedo can still remember the last time she talked to her brother, Edilberto Caicedo.
In her testimony to the House Workforce Protections Subcommittee, Janeth Caicedo said, “On August 19, 2019, my brother came to my bedroom door and said, ‘Hey, monster, it’s time to go to work.'”
Later that August day, something bad happened.
Edilberto Caicedo was working as a temporary worker in a warehouse in New Jersey when a forklift accident crushed his head.
Janeth Caicedo said, “I got a call that my brother Edilberto was in the hospital with a very, very dangerous brain injury.” “He died after four days.”
She talked about her brother’s death in front of a House subcommittee to show how dangerous warehouse work can be.
“Temporary warehouse workers like my brother couldn’t complain about safety risks and expect to keep their jobs,” said Caicedo.
Lawmakers on the subcommittee said that the need for warehouse workers has gone up since the start of the pandemic. Since January 2020, the number of warehouse workers needed has increased by more than a third, to 1.8 million.
Democrats on the subcommittee wanted warehouse worker safety to be more closely watched.
Rep. Alma Adams said, “We should all agree that warehouse workers like Edilberto shouldn’t have to put their lives at risk to support themselves and their families, and we need to make sure that when tragedies happen, employers are held accountable” (D-NC).
Republicans on the subcommittee said that more rules from the government are not the answer. Instead, they wanted more education and business partnerships.
Rep. Fred Keller said, “Sending OSHA after business owners with its aggressive playbook won’t make warehouses safer, but it will hurt our economy and workforce” (R-PA).
According to testimony from the warehousing industry, changes have been made to make the workplace safer. For example, the number and quality of educational programs designed to reduce workplace injuries have been increased and improved, and some businesses have put in place a buddy system.
“Employers in the warehousing and distribution sector have benefited from a careful, introspective look at the internal injury and illness data,” said Manesh Rath, a partner at Keller & Heckman who has represented industry groups and employers.
“Because of this, in our work, we’ve seen that employers have made a number of changes to both their physical plants and the way they run their businesses. This, based on what we’ve seen at these workplaces, has led to a big drop in injuries and illnesses on the job.”