An investigation conducted by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting found that a “lax approach to safety” at several Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company manufacturing plants has not only lead to several on-the-job deaths but also fatalities on the roadways linked to their defective tires.
The six-month investigation included interviews with current employees and past workers at the company and an analysis of state and federal agency records, especially in regards to health and workplace safety. Two tire manufacturing plants in particular fell within the crosshairs of the investigation, including the Fayetteville, North Carolina, plant and the Danville, Virginia, plant.
Tires produced at these two plants have been linked to many accidents. At the Fayetteville and Danville Goodyear facilities, insufficient safety protocols have put both plant workers and drivers at risk of injury and death. At a facility where workers claimed that the motto was “Round and black and out the back,” pressure to produce the maximum amount of tires has eclipsed the importance of maintaining a safe work environment.
In addition to mentioning the presence of production quotas at Goodyear, other former employees pointed at the presence of leaks in the facility’s roof during rainstorms as a cause for the production of weak, defective tires. According to Reveal, when moisture is introduced during the production of tires, tires may be prone to tread separation and blowouts. When a motorist suffers a tire blowout, no matter the speed, the results are oftentimes severe and result in serious or fatal injuries.
Like many industrial work environments, the tire producing process is inherently dangerous to begin with. Many workers handle heavy machinery or are required to work in dark, tight quarters to perform maintenance on equipment.
According to the findings of the investigation, Goodyear has been hit with nearly 200 health and workplace safety violations over the past decade, which is more than the company’s four competitors combined. Reveal discovered that Goodyear managers often clashed with investigators and regulators, and have admitted in the past to ignoring workplace safety concerns, such as failing to address an area covered in spilled oil.
In 2016, a maintenance mechanic at Goodyear’s Danville plant suffered a fatal injury in the course of his job after falling through a hole in a machine pit. The hole was present for months after a pump was removed from the pit, and it was never addressed. In addition, two other similar holes in the machine pit were found nearby by investigators. The area in the pit where the worker fell was covered in oil, grease, and water.
The mechanic’s death marked the third of four deaths that occurred over a one-year period at the Danville Goodyear plant.
David Michaels, the former head of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration said, “A firm in which five workers are killed over 18 months is clearly a firm in which the management is not adequately focused on worker safety.” Michaels went on to state that fatalities and serious injuries do not occur when the production processes at a company are tightly controlled.
In 2012, Goodyear issued a voluntary recall on more than 40,000 Wrangler Silent Armor tires due to a potential defect and possibility of tread separation when used in severe conditions. In 2011, police cited these tires as a cause of an accident that claimed the lives of a college-bound man and woman in West Texas. The tire recall came seven months after the fatal crash, but Goodyear had monitored issues with the tires at least 15 months prior to the wreck.
In 2015, a jury awarded a man $16 million in a lawsuit against Goodyear, which claimed that the 58-year-old was left paralyzed as a result of an accident caused by a defective tire. According to Tire Business, the plaintiff maintained that the Goodyear tire that blew was inherently defective, despite the company claiming a hazard in the road caused the blowout.
The defective tires in both of these tragic accidents were of the many produced at the problematic Fayetteville manufacturing plant.
In the case of Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., unsafe workplace environments have not only put workers at risk of injury but also motorists driving on their tires. If you or a loved one have been injured on the job due to an unsafe work environment, our attorneys are available 24/7, nights and weekends to take your call and evaluate your claim. Hurt in a car crash caused by a defective tire? Contact Thomas J. Henry immediately and receive a free legal consultation. Thomas J. Henry handles all types of personal injury cases, from product liability cases to auto and trucking accidents.