OSHA Fines Force Closure of 100 year old, Family-owned WI Iron Works

Barron, WI – Koser Iron Works was forced to close in December of 2014 after OSHA investigators levied over $102,000 in fines for safety violations, including failure to implement a lockout/tagout program at the plant. Fire, explosion, and amputation hazards were cited in 12 safety violations at the Barron, WI business and 20 employees were laid off as a result of the closure.

Koser, owner of the metalworking shop since 1964, disputes the OSHA allegations. “That’s a ridiculous amount of money and I don’t have it,” said Koser. “No one who reads the OSHA news release about us would want to work for us, or even do any business with us. So it is over.” Koser said he may have to sell his equipment to pay the fine.

Koser Iron Works was cited for two willful, four repeated and 12 serious safety violations in a Oct. 1, 2014 inspection, according to a news release issued Monday by OSHA.

OSHA inspectors observed a lack of lockout/tagout measures in their investigation of the facility. While Koser employees made die changes on punch presses, they failed to use energy control procedures, including powering off and affixing locking devices to prevent unintentional operation of a press. The osha fines iron workscompany also failed to ensure safety mechanisms were in place on its power presses and lathes.

Similar hazards were found in a 2013 investigation after an employee complaint prompted an inspection at the same facility. These repeat violations are considered by OSHA to be “willful” – committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirement, or with plain indifference to employee safety and health.

Koser Iron Works was a steel fabrication company that cut, formed, and welded steel and steel products. The business had been in the Koser family since 1915.

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Failure to Lockout Kills Denver Metal Worker

Denver, CO – The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has fined Atlas Metal & Iron Corp. in Denver $58,000 after determining that the death of an employee in Sept 2014 could have been prevented. Failing to lockout the energized baling machine and assess the confined space properly are two of the violations that led to the fatality.

Abel Marmolejo, age 52, was killed as a result of a failure in lockout/tagout procedures – a scrap metal baler reactivated while he was workinenergizedg on it. In the inspection that followed the incident, OSHA investigators found 12 safety violations at the Atlas Metal & Iron Corp. facility. Atlas Metal & Iron operates a scrap metal drop off center for residential recycling.

“Enclosed machinery and unprotected moving parts can be fatal,” said Herb Gibson, OSHA’s area director in Denver. “If Atlas Metal & Iron Corp. had followed simple, well-known safety practices for turning off machinery before allowing employees to work inside, this tragic incident could have been prevented.”

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Ohio Pallet Manufacturer Fined for Lockout/Tagout Violations

ELIDA, OH — OSHA inspectors issued four willful, four repeated, and 19 serious health and safety violations to A & D Wood Products, a wood pallet manufacturer based in Elida, Ohio. Acting on an employee complaint, OSHA investigators found workers at risk of amputation, explosion and other life-threatening hazards due to lockout/tagout negligence.

Employees of A & D Wood Products were found to be routinely exposed to amputation, combustible dust and other dangerous hazards. The company faces proposed penalties of $133,540 and has been placed in the agency’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program.

Under hazardous working conditions, employees operated machines without eye protection and without effective safeguards from moving parts amid large amounts of combustible wood dust piled throughout the facility. The force from such an explosion can cause deaths, injuries and destruction of buildings.

Kim Nelson, OSHA’s area director in Toledo, stated: “A & D Wood Products operates a manufacturing shop that exposes workers to real hazards daily, creating an environment that forces workers to make a choice between their lives and their livelihood…With 27 violations, it’s clear the safety and health of its workforce is not a priority for them.”

A & D Wood Products workers were found to be exposed to amputation and other injury hazards because devices were not used to prevent equipment from suddenly starting during service and maintenance, a procedure known as lockout/tagout. Inspectors also flagged electrical safety hazards like cabinets not closed properly to prevent contact with energized wires. A & D Wood Products was cited for similar violations at the facility in November 2011. OSHA issues repeated violations if an employer was previously cited for the same or a similar violation of any standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years.

A & D also failed to provide hearing protection and audiometric testing for employees, which can identify premature hearing loss. Noise-related hearing loss is one of the most prevalent occupational health concerns in the U.S., with an estimated 30 million workers exposed to noise each year. Additionally, OSHA inspectors noted machine guarding and electrical safety violations, poor hygiene conditions and unsafe practices related to forklift operations, including leaving forklifts running and unattended. The company also failed to train employees on fire extinguisher use and about hazardous chemicals and products used in the facility, and provided inadequate personal protective equipment. In total, 19 serious violations were cited.

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Lockout/Tagout Accident at Kansas Farm Coop Results in Amputation

Blue Rapids, KS – The Beattie Farmers Union Cooperative of northeast Kansas has been fined $65,900 after a lockout tagout accident in which a worker lost the toes on his left foot after becoming entangled in an auger. The employee was injured in August 2014 while he was cleaning out a grain bin near Waterville. The accident appears to be the result of lockout/tagout neglect on the part of the employer – locking devices were not placed on the augers to prevent them from turning on while workers were in the bin.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced Tuesday that OSHA said in a news release that it found one willful, one repeated and three serious safety and health violations at the farm cooperative. The injured employee has not been able to return to work.

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Gas Explosion Kills Madden Bolt Employee

Houston, TX – A cutting-table explosion resulted in the death of a 31-year-old employee at Madden Bolt Corp in August 2014. The explosion hurled the employee and a steel plate into the air. The plate then landed on the fallen worker. This is the second person killed in a year at the Houston-based employer – In September 2013, a forklift driver died after the machine turned over and pinned him underneath. As a result, OSHA has cited the Houston-based employer for 10 alleged serious violations. Madden Bolt manufactures bolts, custom steel plate products and assemblies, employing about 130 workers.

“When an employee is killed by a preventable workplace hazard, this is no accident. It means the employer failed to protect workers from dangers that can cause injury, illness or, in this case, another needless death,” said Josh Flesher, acting area director for OSHA’s Houston North Area Office. OSHA has proposed fines totaling $44,800.

An inspection that followed the August explosion found alleged serious violations that include failing to ensure that the air and gas concentration in the cutting table did not accumulate to create an explosion; protect fuel cylinders from damage; place safety guards on band saws and a pipe press that exposed workers to being caught in the machinery; cover live electrical parts on equipment; and outline proper procedures to shut down equipment while performing maintenance.

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Formed Fiber Faces OSHA Fines for Lockout/Tagout Negligence

Auburn, ME – Formed Fiber Technologies is being fined by OSHA for failure to implement lockout/tagout procedures that would ensure worker safety against such hazards as lacerations, crushed fingers, amputation (or worse) if struck by or caught in unguarded or unexpectedly activated machinery.

Employees at their Maine manufacturing plant use a variety of worker safety lockoutmachines, including robots, to make polyester carpets and thermoformed trunk liners for the automotive industry. An OSHA inspection found workers at risk of injuries because their employer did not ensure proper safeguards on the machines they operate. No injuries have been reported at this time.

Formed Fiber was fined $816,500 by OSHA in 2014 for falsified safety records.

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Four Workers Injured in Explosion at Saia Motor Freight Line

St. Louis, MO – A flash fire caused by a propane forklift accident sent four Saia Freight employees to the hospital in August 2014 and has resulted in numerous OSHA fines for the company.

Two forklift operators were changing a propane tank on a liquefied petroleum gas-powered forklift inside a freight trailer when a loose coupling connection allowed liquid propane to leak, vaporize, and ignite.

The resulting flash fire caused burns – A lead forklift operator and a newly hired worker suffered critical burns, another worker sustained burns to his legs while he helped extinguish his coworkers’ clothing, and a fourth worker using a forklift nearby also received burns.

As a result, OSHA has cited Saia Motor with one willful and 11 serious safety and health violations and proposed penalties of $119,000. OSHA issued a willful violation for Saia’s use of several powered industrial trucks with defective or bypassed safety switches.

“Workers must be trained to avoid deadly combinations of flammable fuels, ignition sources and confined spaces, which allow vapors to ignite quickly,” said Bill McDonald, OSHA’s area director in St. Louis. “This incident should remind all employers that using forklifts is one of the hazards workers may face daily.”

OSHA issued serious violations for: not evacuating the work area after flammable gas was released; not requiring forklift propane containers be switched in an adequately ventilated area; mounting gas containers on the cylinder indexing pin correctly; training workers on extremely flammable gas hazards; requiring hand and eye protection when changing cylinders; labeling hazardous chemicals in the maintenance; and training powered industrial truck operators. Several electrical safety hazards also were found.

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OSHA Fines WI Furniture Maker $1.76 Million

Arcadia, WI – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration levied a historic $1.766 million dollar fine this week against Ashley Furniture Industries, based in Wisconsin. Investigators documented numerous and repeated serious violations at the facility, landing Ashley Furniture on OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program list for “employers who have demonstrated indifference to their OSH Act obligations by willful, repeated, or failure-to-abate violations.”

The plant employs 4,500 and in the past 3 years has seen over 1,000 worker injuries. Workers were not adequately protected against moving machinery, most of it woodworking machinery. Lack of training and accidents with tools, blades, and saws have resulted in multiple amputations. The OSHA report and $1.76 million dollar penalty allege that Ashley Furniture “failed to safeguard against woodworking machines unintentionally starting when workers were making tool and blade changes,” which is also known as lockout tagout or control of hazardous energy.

Additional citations were issued for “not training workers on safety procedures and hazards present when servicing machinery; lacking adequate drenching facilities for workers exposed to corrosive materials; electrical safety violations; and not equipping all machines with easily-accessible emergency stop buttons.” OSHA categorizes these violations as serious since physical harm resulted from a hazard they estimate that the “employer knew or should have known [to] exist.”

“We rarely issue a fine that is more than $1 million,” commented U.S. Labor Department Assistant Secretary David Michaels. “Having 1,000 work injuries in three years is proof positive that safety in this plant needs tremendous ­improvement.” U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez stated: “Safety and profits are not an ‘either, or’ proposition. Successful companies across this nation have both.” For its part, Ashley Furniture denies the findings, stressing that they are allegations only.

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Worker Suffers Electric Shock and Burns in WI

PLEASANT PRAIRIE, WI –A 24-year-old temporary maintenance employee suffered severe burns from electrical shock while on assignment for Parallel Employment Group of Wisconsin Inc. Working at the Arvato Digital Services LLC distribution center in Pleasant Prairie, the employee came in contact with an energized electrical source and suffered electrical shock. This caused severe burns and left the employee unable to work for more than four months after the May 19th incident.

An investigation OSHA cited both companies for failure to train employees in electrical safety-related work practices, including wearing electric arc flash and shock protection equipment.

OSHA cited Arvato Digital Services for one willful and 10 serious safety violations, carrying proposed penalties of $124,000. Parallel Employment Group, was cited for four serious violations and faces penalties of $26,000. Temporary staffing agencies and host employers share control and responsibility for temporary employee safety and health.

“Workers should not conduct maintenance and trouble-shooting without shutting down electrical sources and wearing personal protective equipment. Those actions can prevent severe injuries like those suffered by this worker,” said Chris Zortman, OSHA’s area director in Milwaukee. “Both temporary staffing agencies and host employers must train and equip their employees properly.”

OSHA’s investigation found the worker, who had been employed for about eight months, had inadvertent contact with electrical equipment while trouble-shooting an electrical failure on a heat-sealing machine.

Arvato Digital Services failed to implement electrical safety practices for employees, which resulted in one willful violation. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirement, or with plain indifference to employee safety and health.

Arvato Digital Services and Parallel Employment Group were cited for failure to train temporary employees in electrical safety and exposing workers to operating machinery parts on conveyers and press equipment. These serious violations exposed workers to electrical shock and amputation.

Additionally, Arvato Digital Services failed to require personal protective equipment for employees working near exposed, energized electrical parts. The company also did not develop procedures to de-energize circuits and equipment safely or ensure stored energy capacitors were grounded. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

The citations from OSHA included electrical safety, arc flash, lockout, and machine guarding citations, as follows:

PPE -OSHA 29 CFR 1910.132(d)(l): The employer did not assess the workplace to determine if hazards are present,or are likely to be present, which necessitate the use of personal protective equipment (PPE):

Lockout / Hazardous Energy Control Program – OSHA 29 CFR 1910.147(c)(4)(i): Procedures are not developed, documented and utilized for the control of potentially hazardous energy when employees were engaged in activities covered by this section:

29 CPR 1910.147(c)(6)(i): The employer did not conduct a periodic inspection of the energy control procedure at least annually to ensure that the procedure and the requirement of this standard were being followed:

Machine Guarding 29 CFR 1910.212(a)(l): Machine guarding was not provided to protect operator(s) and other employees from hazard(s) created by in going nip points, and unguarded conveyor belts:

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Worker Killed by Auger Leads to Citation for Landscaping Company

Washington’s Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) has cited a landscaping company for multiple safety violations related to the death of a worker last July. A nineteen-year-old worker was killed by a rotating auger while working inside the hopper of a bark-blower truck at a residential jobsite. The blower and auger were energized at the time the worker was clearing a jam.

The employer has been cited for two willful and 14 serious violations, with penalties totaling $199,000. The employer has also been identified as a severe violator and will be subject to follow-up inspections to determine if the conditions still exist in the future.

“The loss of this young man’s life is a tragedy that could have been prevented if the employer had followed basic safety and health rules that protect workers from moving machinery,” said L&I Assistant Director Anne Soiza. “We hope this citation and the penalties serve as a deterrent so that nothing like this ever happens again.”

The L&I investigation found that the employer’s workers were regularly assigned to clear jams in the bark-blower truck hoppers while the hoppers were operating. This exposed them to three very hazardous elements: a floor conveyor belt, two rotating-screw conveyors (angled augers) and a rotating stir rod. Exposure to any of these parts of the equipment could potentially result in entanglement, causing severe crushing injuries or death.

Working in and around this type of extremely hazardous equipment requires lockout/tagout safety procedures to prevent machinery from starting up or moving during service or maintenance by workers.

The employer was cited for two willful violations. The first was issued for not ensuring lockout/tagout procedures were regularly used; it carries a penalty of $56,000. The second willful violation was issued for not training the employees in the proper use of those critical procedures; it carries a $52,000 penalty.

Additionally, working in the hopper of bark-blower trucks exposed workers to confined space hazards. Confined spaces, like hoppers, are areas large enough to accommodate a worker, but aren’t designed for continuous employee occupancy and have limited ways to enter or exit.

Twelve of the serious violations cited were for failure to implement safe work practices when entering a permit-required confined space. Two other serious violations were cited for not having an effective accident prevention program and for failure to document lockout/tagout procedures. Each of these violations carries a $6,500 penalty.

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