Sawmill Fatality Reveals Numerous OSHA Violations

St. Joseph, MO – Following a fatal workplace accident at a Missouri sawmill, OSHA has issued $199,183 in fines for 14 serious and two repeat safety violations at American Walnut Co.

The fatal workplace accident occurred on March 12 of 2018 when American Walnut employee Joshua Hill (38) came into contact with operating equipment. Hill reportedly fell into the chute of a grinder and was killed. OSHA found that Hill was not attached to a tether line when he fell 10 feet into the grinder chute.

Following the sawmill fatality, federal workplace safety investigators identified 14 serious and two repeat safety violations at American Walnut Co. including failure to evaluate job hazards, control hazardous energy, and ensure adequate machine guarding. Additionally, workers were found to have been exposed to hazards associated with falls, ladders, and electrical safety.

Noise hazards observed at American Walnut prompted a separate investigation. OSHA inspectors documented that American Walnut employees were exposed to hazards associated with noise, combustible dust, and chemicals within the St. Joseph (MO) facility.

OSHA’s Kansas City Area Office Director stated tsawmill fatalityhat “Employers must continually evaluate job hazards and ensure safety guards are in use to protect workers from known hazards in their facilities.”

The safety of American workers is always our driving motivation at Martin Technical. Anyone with questions about federal safety standards and/or workplace safety hazards should contact a member of our Industrial Safety Team. Martin Technical is a leading provider of practical safety services that make industrial plants and facilities better, safer, and more efficient. Our experts apply real-world solutions to create effective safety and health programs across this country and beyond.

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Death Due to Willfully Unguarded Machinery Leads to $250K Fine

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 willful-serious violations were cited for the Aardvark’s failure to guard machine openings and points of operation. The serious violations identified hazards from the unguarded cutting portion of the clay machine and failure of the employer’s safety program to identify unsafe conditions, implement corrective procedures, and effectively train employees on work-related hazards.

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.

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WI Worker Killed in HVAC Tagout Failure

Wauwatosa, WI – An employee at AAM Casting was killed while working on the facility’s rooftop HVAC system. 61-year-old William Walker died after being pulled into a moving fan at the Wisconsin foundry. A co-worker told investigators that the fatal accident could be traced back to Walker’s failure to “tag out” the equipment.

Tagout failureAccording to the medical examiner’s report, Walker was working on the roof in small building that housed an air handling unit. Each air unit consisted of a set of stairs leading into a separate room. Walker was found in a small steel fan shack that controlled ventilation for the building.

Investigators were told by a person on the scene that Walker was supposed to have “tagged out” after finishing his task, but neglected to do so and was fatally “swallowed up” by the fan. Another worker heard commotion and found Walker. That employee shut down the unit and called 911. The local medical examiner is investigating the exact cause of death.

A spokesperson represneting AAM Casting said the victim, William Walker, was an outside contractor working at the facility.

Lockfatal accidentLockout procedout-Tagout procedures provide detailed instruction on how to isolate and lock each energy source for a given piece of equipment. Lockout-Tagout (also known as Control of Hazardous Energy) helps to prevent the startup of machinery or equipment that may result in worker injury or fatality.

According to OSHA, nearly 3 million US workers service equipment as a part of their job. These employees face the greatest risk of injury if lockout/tagout (LOTO) is not properly implemented. Compliance with the federal lockout/tagout standard is estimated to prevent 120 fatalities and 50,000 injuries annually. In a study conducted by the United Auto Workers (UAW), 20% of fatalities that occurred among their membership over a span of 22 years were attributable to inadequate lockout/tagout procedures.

Contact a member of our Industrial Safety Team today to discuss the implementation of a robust Lockout/Tagout system at your facility, and the importance of training employees on the use and value of LOTO.

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Fatal Injury During Machine Cleaning

Gardena, CA – A worker was killed this week in Gardena (CA) when the machine he was cleaning turned back on. The fatal injury occurred at the German Machined Products Inc manufacturing facility. Cal/OSHA is investigating.

fatal injuryOn Monday afternoon, the Los Angeles County Fire Department received a call about a person trapped inside a metal-cutting machine. By the time emergency workers arrived, the man was dead.

The worker’s name has not yet been released, but according to the LA County Coroner’s Office the victim was a Latino man in his 60s.

German Machined Products’ Gardena manufacturing facility specializes in complex machining and assembly for the aerospace industry. There is a history of Cal/OSHA citations and violations at the plant. In 2014, Cal/OSHA issued four general citations and one serious citation against German Machined Products for failing to properly guard hazardous machinery.

In light of this fatal workplace injury, Cal/OSHA will be interviewing co-workers, checking the Gardena facility’s equipment, and thoroughly reviewing safety and training procedures at German Machined Products.

Accidents during machine maintenance and cleaning activities are especially tragic since they are highly preventable. The federal Lockout/Tagout (LOTO) standard is designed to protect the nearly 3 million workers who service equipment and consequently face the greatest risk of injury if lockout/tagout is not properly implemented. Compliance with the lockout/tagout standard is estimated to prevent roughly 120 fatalities and 50,000 injuries annually.

Please contact Martin Technical to learn more about Lockout/Tagout safety procedures.

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Fatality at Australian Power Plant Reportedly Caused by Arc Flash

Yallourn, Victoria, Australia – A fatal explosion at an Australian Power Station is said to have been the result of a phase-to-phase arc flash. A unit controller with more than 30 years’ experience was critically injured during the explosion in the southeastern-most state of Australia which lead to his death the next day.

EnergyAustralia has identified arc flash as the cause of the explosion at the Yallourn Power Station, however a local union representative is not confident in that explanation and staff at the power station say they are afraid to go to work.

Graeme Edwards died after a high-voltage circuit breaker he was working on exploded last month. Edwards was re-installing a high-voltage circuit breaker on one of the plant’s four generation units when the explosion occurred, a procedure known as “racking.” EnergyAustralia stated that racking is a routine job but potentially hazardous. In this case, the unit burst into flames that burnt most of Edwards’ body. The worker was flown to hospital in a critical condition but died a day later.fatality arc flash

EnergyAustralia said it believed the “sudden electrical discharge” was caused by a “phase-to-phase arc flash.” However, they have yet to determine what caused the short circuit which is the source of union and worker worries about the safety of the workplace.

An Arc Flash is an electrical explosion due to a fault condition or short circuit when either a phase to ground or phase to phase conductor is connected and current flows through the air. Arc flashes cause electrical equipment to explode and can result in an arc-plasma fireball with temperatures in excess of 35,000° F. For reference, the surface of the sun is 9000° F. These extreme temperatures cause rapid heating of surrounding air and extreme pressures, resulting in an arc blast. The arc flash/blast can vaporize all solid copper conductors as they expand up to 67,000 times original volume. The arc flash produces fire, intense light, pressure waves, and flying shrapnel.

Yallorn Power Station workers will not be asked to use affect equipment involved in the incident until EnergyAustralia determines that it is safe to do so. An executive of Yallourn Power Station has said that risk assessments are being conducted and that all safety controls will be reviewed prior to resuming work.

A representative of the union which advocates for the workers at Yallourn Power station has voiced concerns that workers were not provided with the most up-to-date protective gear, including arc flash suits, similar to what bomb disposal workers use.

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Worker Fatally Struck in Pressure Release Accident

pressure releaseTar Heel, NC – The North Carolina division of OSHA has launched an investigation into operations at the Smithfield Packing Plant in Bladen County (NC) after a mechanic was killed in a pressure release accident on the job last week.

According to sources, the fatal workplace accident began when Michael Jessup (age 55) became trapped in a piece of machinery. Jessup was performing repairs on a conveyor belt and was on a scissor lift at the time of the accident.

NC Department of Labor stated that Jessup “was struck in the head by a cylinder while trying to remove a bent wheel from a chain drive. The employee switched the airline hoses to relieve pressure from the chain when [he] was stuck.”

Emergency personnel were called to the facility where they pronounced the man dead at the scene as a result of trauma to the head. Jessup had been employed by Smithfield for about a decade.

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Energized Palletizer Kills Pet Food Worker

Ogden, UT – The American Nutrition plant in northern Utah was the site of an employee death last month when Raul Ortiz was killed in a palletizer accident. Ortiz was crushed after entering an energized palletizer elevator in an attempt to restart packaging line equipment at the pet food manufacturing facility.

energized palletizer kills

Raul Ortiz, a 33-year-old packaging line associate, was fatally injured while operating an automatic bag palletizer. The palletizer machine automatically stacks pet food bags onto a pallet for transport. Ortiz was attempting to restart the palletizer when he was injured on the nightshift and died soon after.

It is believed that Ortiz got into the palletizer elevator while the equipment was still energized, becoming fatally injured as the machinery lifted and crushed him onto the top of the elevator.

An investigation has been launched into the accident and the facility was closed for a portion of time. The American Nutrition facility at Ogden produces extruded, real meat, and baked pet food products.

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Worker Killed in Preventable Conveyor Accident

Mount Laurel, NJ – Lockout/tagout training and machine guards could have saved the life of 23-year-old Dakota LaBrecque. That’s the finding of federal workplace safety inspectors following a 2017 worker fatality at Springfield Power LLC’s Springfield (NH) biomass plant.

EWP Renewable (doing business as Springfield Power LLC) faces $125,460 in fines following the employee fatality. OSHA has cited EWP Renewable Corp. for 25 safety violations after 23-year-old employee Dakota LaBrecque was pulled into a conveyor and died from his injuries.

In investigating the facility after the worker’s death, federal workplace safety inspectors found that the conveyor and other machinery lacked required safety guarding, and employees were not trained in lockout/tagout procedures to prevent equipment from unintentionally starting.

Springfield Power was also cited for fall hazards; electric shock and arc flash hazards; and a lack of adequate emergency evacuation, fire prevention, aworker killed conveyornd hazardous energy control programs.

Rosemarie Cole, OSHA’s New Hampshire area director, stated that EWP Renewable’s “failure to protect employees resulted in a tragedy that could have been prevented if training was provided and machinery was appropriately guarded.”

OSHA requires equipment specific lockout procedures for each piece of equipment. These 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 unexpected energization or startup of machinery and equipment. Martin Technical’s Rapid LOTO lockout procedure development program is designed to provide high quality procedures that are easy to follow.

Additionally, OSHA requires that employees be trained on lockout policies and procedures. Proper training ensures that the purpose and function of the lockout/tagout or 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 the workforce.

Martin Technical is a leading provider of practical safety and efficiency services that make industrial plants and facilities better, safer and more efficient. Our experts can help simplify the complex by applying real-world solutions for Lockout Tagout, Arc Flash, Electrical Safety, Risk Assessments, Training, Machine Safety & Safety Consulting Services. Contact a member of our professional safety services team today.

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Machine Guarding Death at AL Polymer Facility Deemed Preventable

Helena, AL – OSHA has proposed fines of $195,144 against ABC Polymer Industries LLC after an employee suffered fatal injuries when she was pulled into a plastics recycling machine at the Alabama facility in 2017. OSHA has determined that ABC Polymer’s machine guarding failure was “willful” and resulted in what they’ve called a “preventable tragedy.”

Following their investigation, OSHA levied one willful citation against ABC PolyMachine guardingmers for failing to provide machine guards which protect employees from hazards like getting caught in machinery and amputation dangers. Of the 16 violations found at the AL facility, the willful machine guarding failure amounts to the largest portion of the proposed fine total. OSHA’s Birmingham Area Office issued a statement: “This company’s failure to install machine guarding equipment has resulted in a preventable tragedy.”

ABC Polymer Industries was also cited for repeat, serious, and other-than-serious violations, including failing to evaluate all powered industrial trucks every three years, not having machine specific lockout tagout procedures, and failing to install a rail system on both sides of an open platform.

According to the local Coroner’s office, the employee, Eva Saenz (age 45), was working next to rollers and bent over to cut a piece of plastic when she got pulled up into the rollers and equipment. She was pronounced dead at the scene by emergency responders.

ABC Polymer Industries makes polypropylene bulk storage bags and flexible containers for industrial markets. They are one of the largest suppliers of flexible intermediate bulk containers in North America as well as a manufacturer of polypropylene concrete fibers, and extruded PP products, including microsynthetic and macrosynthetic concrete fibers.

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Worker Fatality at Goodyear Plant in Topeka

Topeka, KS – A worker fatality at the Goodyear Tire facility in Topeka has Goodyear and a local staffing agency facing combined OSHA fines of over $40,000 and multiple federal safety citations.

Kansas Personnel Services had hired James Lay, Jr. to work at the north Topeka Goodyear plant early on March 14 when he was killed. Reports have not detailed the nature of the worker fatality, however officials have classified it as an accident.

OSHA has levied three serious violations against Goodyear Tire and Rubber, Inc. and two more serious penalties against Kansas Personnel Services (which also goes by the name Key Staffing). The combined fines exceed $40,000.

OSHA documented that Goodyear failed to make sure metal pieces leftworker fatality leaning against a wall did not create a hazard; had pendant boxes that were not constructed to prevent electric shock; and did not inspect alloy steel chain slings on a regular basis or did so at intervals greater than a year. In all, Goodyear was fined $27,713.00.

Kansas Personnel Services was fined $12,675 for allegedly failing to make sure metal pieces were left leaning against a wall did not create a hazard; and not ensuring each operator had successfully completed their training.

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