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.
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.
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:
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.
HIGH SPRINGS, FLA. — Ice River Springs Water Co. Inc., a water bottling plant in Florida, was fined $84,000 by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration following an accident that permanently disabled a contingent worker.
The worker was clearing a jam in a machine used to package cases of bottled water on pallets when the machine started up, pinning him between the elevator and the palletizer conveyor, permanently disabling him. The worker had been on the job for 12 days.
An OSHA investigation found Ice River’s High Springs facility allowed workers to bypass two machine safeguards when entering the palletizer’s safety cage. OSHA cited the water-bottle manufacturer for three safety violations, two serious and one willful; fines total $84,000.
Willful. Failure to ensure workers were protected from moving machine parts during service or maintenance.
“It is critical that Ice River Springs and TempForce understand OSHA’s newest initiatives to protect temporary workers, which must include shared responsibility by the host employer and the temporary staffing agency. These initiatives include taking effective steps to ensure that each temporary worker is sufficiently trained and monitored to safeguard them from the hazards of their new work environment” said Brian Sturtecky, OSHA’s area director in Jacksonville.