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DIGGING DEEPER: Dying on the Job – Chamber of Commerce weighs in

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA21) – The Indiana Chamber of Commerce on Friday condemned shoddy safety practices that contributed to the death of a Fort Wayne plastics plant employee in January and said it will work with a state lawmaker on a “thoughtful, reasonable” effort to prevent future incidents.

ABC21 investigated the circumstances surrounding the death of 23-year-old Shacarra Hogue at Fort Wayne Plastics on Jan. 7. She was crushed in a press that had been altered to eliminate key safety features, ABC21 first reported earlier this month.

Following an Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration review, the company was fined $6,300. State law prevents Hogue’s family from taking any legal action.

The Chamber, in a statement to ABC21, said it believed Fort Wayne Plastics to be in the small minority of businesses that fail to act responsibly regarding employee safety, but also signaled interest in measures that would prevent such tragedies.

Mike Ripley, Indiana Chamber of Commerce vice president of health care policy and employment law

“It’s our belief that most employers are doing the right things to keep employees safe,” said Mike Ripley, Indiana Chamber of Commerce vice president of health care policy and employment law. “But as evidenced by what happened to Ms. Hogue, there are still select employers who unfortunately are not properly protecting their workers. This is unacceptable. What happened to Ms. Hogue is an awful tragedy that should never have happened. There were blatant disregards of safety procedures.”

Immediately following ABC21’s initial report on the Fort Wayne Plastics incident, State Rep. Martin Carbaugh (R-Fort Wayne) filed notice that he will introduce workplace safety legislation in the upcoming session in Indianapolis.

The state Chamber has reached out to Carbaugh regarding his effort.

“The Indiana Chamber has begun working with Rep. Martin Carbaugh to see what can be done to ensure something horrible like this doesn’t happen again,” Ripley said. “It’s our hope that a thoughtful, reasonable approach can be agreed upon in 2019, while also recognizing that the vast majority of employers properly prioritize safety.

“Particularly for the more industrial businesses, safety has to be the number one consideration.”

The Indiana State Legislature convenes on Jan. 7, exactly one year after Shacarra Hogue’s death.

Below: Rep. Martin Carbaugh reacts to ABC21 Digging Deeper investigation


Jonathan Shelley

Jonathan Shelley is the news director at WPTA TV, which he joined in 2016 following nine years in a similar role in New Orleans and previous news management positions in Oklahoma City and Las Vegas.

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