Young Father Loses Both Legs in Preventable Lockout Accident

Spooner, WI – Spooner Machine has been cited for willful and serious safety violations after a preventable lockout accident led to an explosion that resulted in the amputation of a young father’s legs. OSHA has placed Spooner Machine Inc. on its Severe Violator Enforcement Program, and has proposed penalties of $221,168.

According to local police, Spooner Machine employee Bradley Grossen, 29, suffered life-threatening injuries as a result of the explosion at the Wisconsin facility. Grossen was reportedly repairing a water table used in metal fabrication when an explosion threw him from the top of the water table to the floor.

Federal workplace safety investigators determined that the explosion was caused by an accumulation of hydrogen gas. OSHA cited Spooner Machine for failing to develop and implement procedures to control the release of hydrogen gas during service and maintenance; to ensure proper machine guarding; store gas and oxygen cylinders properly; to provide required training; and protect employees from electrical hazards.

preventable lockout accident

OSHA’s Area Office Director stated that “this injury could have been prevented if the employer had properly protected their workers from the release of hazardous energy.”

Lockout/Tagout (LOTO) and Hazardous Energy Control/Control of Hazardous Energy refers to the same standard of preventing unexpected start up or movement of equipment. The terms are used interchangably, although “Lockout” is more commonly used in the United States.

Written Lockout/tagout procedures provide detailed instruction on how to isolate and lock each energy source for a given piece of equipment, helping to prevent the startup of machinery or equipment that may result in worker injuring.

Violations of federal workplace safety standards regarding lockout-tagout (or hazardous energy controls) are on OSHA’s Top 10 “Most Often Cited Violations” and Top 10 “Most Serious Violations” lists. Many companies have general written policies, but lack the equipment specific procedures which provide workers with the specific steps to properly isolate energy sources. Lockout/Tagout fines are based on each piece of equipment, and can add up to tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Written procedures for the control of hazardous energy are not effective without training. OSHA requires that employees be trained on lockout policies and procedures to ensure that the purpose and function of the energy control program are understood by the workforce. A robust lockout program pairs equipment-specific lockout procedures with employees who have the knowledge and skills required for the safe application, usage, and removal of the energy controls.

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