Grand Rapids Plastics Fined After Lockout/Tagout Death

Wyoming, MI – Grand Rapids Plastics Inc. faces $558,000 in fines following inspection by state OSHA regulators investigating the June 2014 death of worker killed while cleaning inside a machine. Russell Scharenbroch, father of six, was fatally crushed at Grand Rapids Plastics in a horizontal injection molding machine that was not properly locked out.

OSHA found that the Michigan-based injection molder did not enforce the use of lockout/tagout safety procedures prior to the 34-year-old victim entering the mold cavity. “The machine was left in automatic mode while the employee was inside, and another employee cycled the machine,” the OSHA report says.

Grand Rapids Plastics was cited for three willful serious violations related to this death and fined $70,000 for each offense, which included inadequate employee training and not using lock-out devices on the molding machine and a pick-and-place conveyor. Two other fines of $5,000 each were assessed for not having machine guards at the front and rear gates of injection molding machines and not developing lock-out safety procedures, bringing the initial penalties to $220,000.

A second companion inspection of the company, which has five buildings, was conducted a few days later. That investigation “was opened because MIOSHA discovered a pattern of employees entering machines while the machines were still energized and because many other safety hazards were observed,” the MIOSHA report says.

State inspectors slapped the company with an additional 49 violations, including six considered willful serious, and penalties of $338,000. The penalties and violations ranged from $1,500 for an employee wearing unapproved prescription glasses with homemade side shields while operating a drill press, bench grinder and lathe all the way up to $70,000 for not training the employee supervising the injection molding operations in lock-out safety.

These findings and fines put Grand Rapids Plastics into the federal Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which focuses on employers “who have demonstrated indifference” to their safety obligations. “The comprehensive companion inspection has two or more willful violations based on high-gravity serious violations related to the high-emphasis hazard of amputations,” the MIOSHA report states.

From 2011-14, Grand Rapids Plastics was cited a total of 10 times for serious and other-than-serious violations and fined a total of $31,250. Founded in 1976, Grand Rapids Plastics produces plastic parts for the automotive, home, sporting, electronics and construction industries.

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