When a warehouse shelving unit collapsed at a Manassas, Virginia (VA), food distribution center, one worker lost his life and seven other employees of the business suffered serious injuries. The fatal March 29, 2016, on-the-job accident occurred at Reinhart Foodservice, which is located off Balls Ford Road.
A news report described the collapsed shelving unit as 30 feet tall, 200 feet long and loaded with pallets of frozen food weighing hundreds of pounds each. A survivor told Washington, DC-area television station WJLA that workers had complained about the unit being unsteady and unsafe and that management had not taken even rudimentary safety precautions such as anchoring the unit to the floor.
The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Virginia's equivalent state worker safety agency will investigate such claims. Investigators will also need to inspect the shelving unit for design, manufacturing and installation flaws. Also coming under scrutiny will be the policies and procedures for placing and removing items from the shelving unit, as well as the actions of the employees leading up to the deadly collapse.
The family of the deceased warehouse worker and the injured employees likely have strong workers' compensation claims. Grounds for wrongful death and personal injury lawsuits may also exist if evidence shows that the employees' supervisors and managers neglected their legal duties to ensure employees' health and safety. The maker of the shelving unit could also be held liable for making compensation and paying damages if its product is found to be defective in any way.
When their physical and emotional health allows them to do so, the people negatively affected by the workplace fatality should consider consulting with a Virginia plaintiff's attorney. A knowledgeable and dedicated legal advocate would ensure that their rights and interests are protected throughout what is sure to be a long investigation and a contentious fight over liability.