Santa Ana, CA – Cal/OSHA announced fines of over a quarter of a million dollars against Aardvark Clay & Supplies this week. The fines are the result of Cal/OSHA’s investigation into a 2018 worker death at the facility which has been attributed to willful failure to properly guard equipment and lack of lockout/tagout training.
Enrique Garcia-Vazques (18) died in a workplace accident at the Santa Ana (CA) clay products business on Sept. 20, 2018 when he became fatally entangled in a clay manufacturing machine called a pug mill. According to reports, Garcia-Vazques was packaging clay blocks after they were cut to size when he became caught in the unguarded mixing blades of the machine as he attempted to identify why the clay stopped traveling through the extruder. According to Cal/OSHA’s report, Enrique Vasquez Garcia sustained amputation, puncture and asphyxia-related injuries in the workplace accident.
Cal/OSHA found that machine safety guards had been purposely removed from the industrial mixer and that the worker had not received training on the machine prior to the accident. Local emergency responders tried to free Garcia-Vazques from the equipment, but sadly, in the end he was declared dead at the scene.
According to said Cal/OSHA’s statement,“Pug mills have rotating blades that can cause amputations and fatally injure employees…Employers must ensure all machinery and its parts are properly guarded, and employees are effectively trained to prevent tragic accidents like this.” Aardvark Clay & Supplies uses the industrial pug mills to manufacture and mix clay.
Investigators with California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health found that all four of the pug mills in Aardvark’s Santa Ana shop had unguarded openings exposing employees to the moving parts. This is in direct violation of safety regulations requiring mixers to have a cover to prevent employees’ hands from entering the machine during operation. This willful failure to guard machinery was cited as one of the willful-serious violations for which Aardvark is being held accountable.
Five violations were levied against Aardvark Clay & Supplies, along with a grand total of $250,160 in proposed penalties. Among the violations, one was categorized as willful-serious accident-related, one was classified as willful-serious, two were deemed serious, and one was general. Accident-related violations are cited when the injury, illness, or fatality is caused by the violation. Serious violations are cited when there is a “realistic possibility” that death or serious harm could result from the hazard created by the violation.
The state of California requires employers to conduct and document inspection of safety hazards as a part of their state-mandated Injury and Illness Prevention Program. Employers whose workplaces feature machines with moving parts, such as mixers, are also required to train their employees in Machine Guarding and Lockout/Tagout in an effort to prevent exactly the type of accident that killed Garcia-Vazques.
Aardvark Clay & Supplies was found to have failed to effectively train workers on the hazards involved with operating their machinery, and then found remiss in identifying and correcting their machine safety hazards. Machine safety guards were provided by equipment manufacturer, but Cal/OSHA found that Aardvark had removed the guards. Investigators documented evidence of fabricated guards having been added to the machines at some point in their operation, but these were found to have been later removed when the employer “believed they interfered with the rate of production.”
For this reason, Cal/OSHA categorized Aardvark’s violation as willful. Willful violations are cited when the employer is aware of the law and still violates it or is aware of a hazardous condition and takes no reasonable steps to address it.
Brundidge, AL – Southern Classic Food Group LLC faces $164,997 in fines following citations for amputation and other hazards stemming from separate incidents in which two employees were hospitalized, one for a finger amputation and one for burns.
In the first incident brought to their attention, OSHA stated that an employee suffered burns while using hot water under pressure. Just six days later, another employee suffered an amputation to the tip of the finger.
In the course of their investigation, OSHA found that Southern Classic Food Group exposed employees to amputation hazards; neglected to implement lockout/tagout procedures to control hazardous energy and failed to train employees on these procedures; failed to ensure employees isolated energy sources; and did not provide personal protective equipment or implement a bloodborne pathogen program.
One OSHA citation was for neglecting to make sure workers isolated energy sources before performing line-breaking work. 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. Machines that start up unexpectedly during maintenance are common causes of industrial injury and amputation. Proper application of lockout-tagout (or hazardous energy controls) violations are on OSHA’s Top 10 “Most Often Cited Violations” and Top 10 “Most Serious Violations” lists.
Approximately 3 million workers in the US service equipment and face the greatest risk of injury if lockout/tagout is not properly implemented. Compliance with the federal lockout/tagout standard prevents an estimated 120 fatalities and 50,000 injuries each year. Workers injured on the job from exposure to hazardous energy lose an average of 24 workdays for recuperation.
Risk of amputation is a hazard of conducting maintenance work on industrial machinery, which is why OSHA requires that employees be trained on lockout policies, practices, and procedures. Training ensures that the purpose and function of an energy control program is understood by employees and that the knowledge and skills required for the safe application, usage, and removal of the energy controls are acquired by employees.
Pennsauken, NJ – Failure to implement OSHA recommendations has led to an amputation and over $200,000 in fines for willful violations documented at an NJ snack food manufacturing facility.
A worker at J&J Snack Foods Corporation suffered a partial finger amputation in a lockout accident that could have been prevented by rectifying prior violations identified by OSHA. Following an investigation, J&J faces $206,019 in fines for federal workplace safety violations, including willful violations.
OSHA’s investigation found that failures to correct previously issued workplace safety violations led to the amputation accident at J&J’s Pennsauken manufacturing facility. The snack-food maker failed to correct prior violations of safety procedures known as lockout/tagout procedures which are written instructions for de-energizing each piece of equipment.
OSHA inspectors determined that the worker was cleaning a machine when it activated. This is typical of accidents whose cause can be traced back to lockout/tagout failures or energy control hazards.
Million of American workers service equipment as a part of their job, and these people face the greatest risk of injury if lockout/tagout is not properly implemented. It is estimated that compliance with the federal lockout/tagout standard prevents 120 fatalities and 50,000 injuries each year. Workers injured on the job from exposure to hazardous energy lose an average of 24 workdays for recuperation. OSHA’s area director stated that “the employer’s failure to correct previously identified violations and follow basic safety standards resulted in this preventable incident.”
J&J was cited for willfully failing to conduct periodic inspections of energy control procedures used to de-energize equipment when cleaning; failing to implement lockout procedures to prevent unintentional machine start-up; and failing to train employees on lockout/tagout procedures and energy hazards.
OSHA requires that employees be trained on lockout policies and procedures. Training is done to ensure that the purpose and function of the energy control program are understood by employees, and that the knowledge and skills required for the safe application, usage, and removal of the energy controls are acquired by employees.
J&J Snack Foods Corp manufactures popular snack foods like soft pretzels, churros, water ice, and frozen lemonade for popular brands sold throughout the United States.
Canton, OH – A Fresh Mark employee died recently after his leg was caught in a waste grinder. Ohio’s Stark County Coroner’s Office stated that 62-year-old Samuel Martinez stepped into a chute and was caught in a waste grinder at the meat processing plant outside of Cleveland. Authorities say he died at the scene.
Fresh Mark Inc. supplies grocery stores, restaurants, and food service companies with bacon, ham, hot dogs and deli meats.
Fresh Mark officials are working with authorities to determine the cause of the accident.
Machine safety is crucial to workplace safety. Machine Safety and Lockout Tagout procedures, training, and awareness save lives, maintain production schedules, and keep machinery operational on a daily basis and are the foundation of a safe and efficient workplace.
Fostoria, OH – The amputations and injuries that resulted from inadequate lockout tagout procedures and practices at a northwestern Ohio vinyl tile manufacturer have now also resulted in over half a million dollars in fines for federal safety violations.
Nox Corporation has been cited for five “willful” and two “serious” violations related to inadequate lockout tagout procedures. OSHA issued Nox $514,236 in fines on Dec 21, 2017 and has placed the corporation on its Severe Violator Enforcement Program.
An investigation into the South Korean vinyl tile manufacturer was triggered by two incidents in 2017 and led to the discovery of eight machine safety violations. One employee required surgery after a tile machine crushed his hand, and shortly afterward, an employee suffered partial amputations of two fingers while working on a recycle material system.
OSHA cited Nox Corp for failing to use adequate lockout/tagout procedures and devices to prevent unintentional machine movement, failure to train employees, and exposing employees to fall hazards. Nox has been placed in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program.
In a statement from OSHA’s Toledo office, the area director stated that “when dangerous machines are not properly guarded or de-energized, employees face an increased risk of serious injuries…Employers must monitor their facilities continuously to ensure workplace safety and health procedures are adequate and effective.”
Benson, MN – Minnesota safety regulators are investigating the death of a worker who fell into a hopper last week at the Benson Power plant in central Minnesota. The Benson biomass plant supplies power to Xcel Energy and has previously been fined by OSHA for hazardous energy concerns.
Rescue personnel arrived and administered lifesaving measures on the scene, and the victim was later transported to a local hospital where he died. Authorities have yet to release the man’s name.
The Benson (MN) facility (previously known as FibroMinn) was fined several times in the past for OSHA violations, including a $1,050 fee in 2012 for inadequate hazardous energy control and another $11,000 fine in 2012 for not providing employee right-to know information and poorly storing flammable liquids and exposed wiring.
Lockout/Tagout (LOTO) and Hazardous Energy Control or Control of Hazardous Energy all refer to the same standard of preventing unexpected start up or movement of equipment. The terms are used interchangably, although “Lockout” is more universally used in the United States as it is the term OSHA uses, while ANSI uses “Control of Hazardous Energy ” in their standard, which is used more often by non-US entities.
Benson Power burns turkey manure and wood chips to generate power for Xcel Energy, but is expected to shut down soon as a cost saving measure. MN state utility regulators approved Xcel’s plan to close the 55-megawatt Benson plant and two other biomass electricity generators. Xcel anticipates that the buyout will lead to long-term savings of $345 million.
Jeffersonville, IN – Lockout procedures and lockout training could have saved the life of former Autoneum employee Melissa Stephens. That’s the finding of the Indiana arm of OSHA which found five safety violations following the employee death in October at Autoneum’s Jeffersonville (IN) facility. The automotive manufacturer has been fined $224,000 for violations which IOSHA believes were entirely preventable: “had the appropriate safety precautions been in place, the fatality would not have occurred.”
Additional violations were classified as those with a “high probability of death or serious harm,” and totaled $14,000: failure to establish and maintain safe work conditions through employees’ exposure to being caught in rotating machine parts due to loose clothing; and lack of effective training on hazardous power sources, such as power from moving belts, that could cause employees to become caught or pinched by machinery.
Melissa Stephens (age 44) died after an incident with a machine at the Jeffersonville plant on Oct. 21, 2017. Preliminary cause of her death was ruled multiple blunt force trauma.
Autoneum is a Swiss-based company that manufactures GM and Ford parts and specializes in vehicle acoustic and thermal management systems. They have 50 locations in more than 20 countries and employ over 11,000 people.
Salinas, CA – Growers Street Cooling has agreed to pay $310,000 in costs and civil penalties as a result of legal action brought by the Monterey County District Attorney following a 2013 worker fatality at the Salinas-based produce-cooling company.
The death of Jose Juan Serrano (30) prompted the Monterey County District Attorney to file a worker fatality action against Growers Street Cooling. Serrano was working on a large piece of machinery at the Salinas facility in 2013 when a piece of equipment fell on him.
On the day of his death, Serrano was applying plastic covering to pallets of strawberries. Prosecutors said a portion of a pallet broke off and became lodged, causing the machine to stop automatically. However, Serrano failed to press the emergency-shutoff switch before dislodging the wood, which caused a large counterweight to fall and kill him instantly.
Serrano had been working for Growers Street Cooling as a machine operator for only 16 days prior to the accident. According to the DA, Serrano was assigned to operate a TransFresh Tectrol – a piece of heavy machine which wraps pallets of strawberries in plastic wrap and uses hydraulics to squeeze the strawberry containers in on the pallet for easier shipping and handling. As the compression occurs, a large counterweight on the opposite end balances the machine.
The day Serrano was killed, he was operating the Tectrol machine alone. When a wooden pallet became lodged inside the machine and caused it to jam, Serrano climbed behind the machine and used a crowbar to release the wood. Unfortunately, he did not de-energize, turn off the machine, or perform any lock-out/tag-out procedures. As soon as the jam was cleared, the machine reactivated and a large counterweight crushed him against the wall.
California state law and federal safety standards require businesses using any kind of heavy machinery to train workers in proper lockout/tagout procedures to minimize accidental injury and death. Lockout procedures provide detailed instruction on how to isolate and lock each energy source for a given piece of equipment, thereby helping to prevent the unexpected energization or startup of machinery and equipment, or the release of hazardous energy during service or maintenance activities. The Monterey DA found that Growers Street Cooling never trained Serrano on lockout procedures before assigning him to operate the machine which killed him.
Additionally, the DA said that Growers Street Cooling did not maintain a written lockout/tagout policy or training program, and charged that they systematically violated worker safety laws. OSHA CFR 29 1910.147 provides regulations on LOTO (LockOut/TagOut) and 25 states have their own approved lockout tagout and worker safety standards. Often times, the most overlooked aspect of a lockout tagout program is failure to provide equipment specific lockout procedures. A general corporate written policy does not meet the requirements of OSHA.
The Monterey County court-ordered injunction requires Growers Street Cooling to maintain and implement written hazardous energy control procedures for all heavy machinery and maintain and implement written training programs for lockout/tagout procedures. Additionally, the Monterey DA ordered the company to conduct annual inspections of its lockout/tagout procedures and not assign employees to operate any machinery unless they are trained about the machine’s hazards. According to the DA, Growers Street Cooling has recently provided proof that compliance is underway.
Carthage, NY – A paperboard facility in upstate New York is facing 61 citations and nearly $360,000 in OSHA fines, prompting many employees to worry about layoffs. Federal safety inspectors found that Carthage Specialty Paperboard’s Carthage mill lacked safety guards to prevent amputations, and locks that halt start-ups during equipment maintenance.
In addition to the failures in lockout/tagout and machine safety, OSHA inspectors also found that employees did not receive required training or safety equipment and were sent into confined spaces without atmospheric testing or rescue protocols in place.
OSHA area director Christopher Adams stated that “the violations found during this investigation put employees at serious risk of injury or even worse…This is a significant number of hazards for a single workplace.”
Electrical hazards were also cited in OSHA’s report. They documented a lack of safety equipment or training for employees working on electrical systems charged with up to 2,300 volts of electricity.
Safety locks were missing on machines to that prevent them from being turned on during routine maintenance – these locks and safety procedures are known as Lockout/Tagout. OSHA requires that equipment specific lockout procedures be written for each piece of equipment. These lockout procedures provide detailed instruction on how to isolate and lock each energy source for a given piece of equipment, helping to prevent the unexpected energization or startup of machinery and equipment, or the release of hazardous energy during service or maintenance activities.
Carthage Specialty Paperboard representatives say that the mill is old, which is why it has many of these problems. A United Steelworkers Union representative says that investment is needed: “It needs money. It’s an old mill. Old mills take investment to keep running.” Carthage Specialty Paperboard is owned by Delta Point which has invested $3 million into the mill over the last several years and has said it plans to put in another $2 million. Mill workers are worried about the state of their jobs. The labor representative said that “if they don’t see Delta Point coming in with money to invest in the facility, there’s a lot of anxiety.”
Tiffin, OH – Numerous and repeat machine safety violations have been documented at the American Fine Sinter facility, triggering $82,462 in federal safety fines for the auto parts supplier.
OSHA inspectors found five major failures in machine safety protocol at American Fine Sinter Co. Ltd, most of which the firm had already been cited for three years ago.
Just as they had in 2014, OSHA investigators documented the lack of a Lockout/Tagout program at the facility – American Fine Sinter had not established proper written procedures for cutting off power to equipment that was being serviced. These lockout procedures provide detailed instruction on how to isolate and lock each energy source for a given piece of equipment, helping to prevent the unexpected energization or startup of machinery and equipment, or the release of hazardous energy during service or maintenance activities.
Approximately 3 million American workers service equipment at their jobs – these employees face the greatest risk of injury if lockout/tagout is not properly implemented. Compliance with the federal lockout/tagout standard prevents an estimated 120 fatalities and 50,000 injuries each year. A study conducted by the United Auto Workers (UAW) found that 20% of the fatalities that occurred among their members were attributed to inadequate hazardous energy control procedures.
In addition to lockout failures, OSHA found repeated machine safety violations. Investigators revealed that safety blocks were not being used when employees changed dies on mechanical presses, proper guards were not in place on machinery being tested, and that the proper controls were not in place to ensure press modes could not be changed without the operator’s knowledge. Another issue was the finding that American Fine Sinter Co. did not perform regular inspections of it’s machinery.
Training was also found to be a problem at the American Fine Sinter facility. OSHA’s investigations found that employees had not been adequately trained to safely use a mechanical press.