Sea Watch International named in “Dirty Dozen” list due to employee deaths

Published on
April 23, 2020

Sea Watch International, based in New Bedford, Massachusetts, U.S.A., has been named to the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health’s (COSH) annual “Dirty Dozen” list for multiple workplace deaths since 2014.

The list is compiled each year by the National COSH to highlight businesses that engage in practices that put workers safety and health at risk – covering issues from sexual harassment to harm in the workplace. The report’s goal, according to the COSH, is to highlight the issues in the U.S. and call for action for better protections for employees.

The report, according to Co-Executive Director of the National COSH Marcy Goldstein-Gelb, has particular relevance during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

“During this crisis, the Dirty Dozen report is more relevant than ever,” Goldstein-Gelb said. “When companies ignore safety problems, it’s workers that pay the price.”

Sea Watch International was named on the list for the deaths of three employees: Victor Gerena, William Couto, and Paul Sayward.

Gerena, according to the report, was killed in 2014 when he was pulled into a machine he was repairing at Sea Watch International’s seafood processing plant in New Bedford. The company was later fined for seven U.S. OSHA violations.

"This worker should not have died. This death was preventable if the company had implemented the required safety practices," Brenda Gordon, OSHA’s area director for the region, said in a release following the investigation. "It is the employer's responsibility to ensure that all requirements are met and to take effective action to ensure that these hazards, and the dangers they pose to workers, do not occur again."

However, according to COSH, in January 2019 a similar incident occurred when Cuoto was crushed in “almost exactly the same circumstances that killed Victor Genera.”

A third death occurred earlier this year, when Sayward was knocked overboard and drowned after being struck by a hose on the deck of a fishing vessel.

“The fact that William died in a way almost identical to Victor indicates that Sea Watch sees these tragic losses as the cost of doing business," Massachusetts COSH Executive Director Jodi Sugerman-Brozan said in the Dirty Dozen report.

According to the report, the majority of the employees at the processing facility are from a temporary labor agency, and many are immigrants. Following the death of Genera, the Centro Comunitario Trabajadores, a local nonprofit that works with the local immigrant community, offered to provide safety training in languages workers can understand. However, Seafood Watch International declined the offer, according to the COSH.

Sea Watch International’s naming on the “Dirty Dozen” list marks the second year in a row that a seafood company from Massachusetts has been named to the list. Last year, Atlantic Capes Fisheries and BJ’s Service Company were named to the list for sexual harassment, which Atlantic Capes said stemmed from incidents that occurred at its IQF Custom Packing Inc. facility before the company acquired it.

Sea Watch International could not be reached for comment. 

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