Kentucky, USA- The family of a Kentucky man killed in a workplace incident has filed a lawsuit against his employer, GE Appliances, as well as other parties.
Steve Herring, who has worked for GE Appliances for more than two decades, died in February after being pinned by machinery while working on a refrigerator-building assembly line. News sources are reporting that the state OSHA’s investigation into the workplace incident found that it could have been caused by an inadvertent activation of an improperly positioned gate interlock control.
The lawsuit filed in Jefferson Circuit Court last week names General Electric Company, Design Safety Engineering Inc., Doerfer Corperation, Doerfer Acquisition Company, JR Automation Technologies LLC, Haier US Appliance Solutions Inc. and Kentucky resident Mark Miller as defendants.
The lawsuit claims that the assembly line Herring was working on was “unreasonably dangerous” and in “defective condition.” It alleges that there were no instructions or warnings about the hazards on the line — and that the companies being sued were aware of the defects. The suit requests punitive and compensatory damages.
According to Kentucky OSHA, GE made changes to the safety programming on an assembly line that was identical to the one at which Herring was pinned following a 2014 incident. However, the company didn’t fix the line where Herring worked until after Herring died.
An inspection conducted by the agency after the fatality resulted in GE being cited for seven safety violations and fined $98,000, which the company is appealing.
Arlington, VA- Prompted by reports of three recent fatalities involving electricity, the Mine Safety and Health Administration has issued a safety alert.
Electricity has killed three people in the mining industry since August 7, 2019.
An electrician contacted an energized component of a 4,160 VAC electrical circuit while adjusting the linkage between the disconnect lever and the internal components of the panel that supplied power to the plant feed belt motors. A contract electrician contacted an energized 120 VAC conductor while working inside a fire suppression system’s electrical
panel. An electrician contacted an exposed energized connector while troubleshooting a 995 VAC flooded bed scrubber motor circuit on-board a continuous mining machine.
MSHA offers numerous best practices for electrical incident prevention. Among them:
-Perform lockout/tagout procedures on circuits before working on electrical equipment.
-Don’t rush, and never work alone. Talk with co-workers and confirm your plan is safe.
-Identify and control all hazardous energy sources before conducting tasks, and follow safe work procedures.
-Train miners on equipment they may use.
-Always perform troubleshooting without power. If you must troubleshoot an energized circuit, use properly rated personal protective equipment to prevent hazards.
Waukegan, IL- An OSHA investigation into the deaths of four employees of an Illinois chemical plant has resulted in more than a million dollars in proposed penalties against AB Specialty Silicones LLC.
The company has been cited for a dozen willful federal safety violations in the explosion and fire at its Waukegan facility on May 3, 2019 that caused deaths of four employees.
The silicon chemical products manufacturer faces $1,591,176 in penalties and has been placed in the in the Severe Violator Enforcement Program.
OSHA investigators determined AB Specialty Silicones failed to ensure that electrical equipment and installations in the production area of the plant complied with OSHA electrical standards, and were approved for hazardous locations. The company also used forklifts powered by liquid propane to transport volatile flammable liquids, and operated these forklifts in areas where employees handled and processed volatile flammable liquids and gases, creating the potential for ignition.
Athens, GA- The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited national discount retailer Dollar Tree Stores Inc. at its store on Atlanta Highway in Athens, Georgia. The company faces $125,026 in proposed penalties for exposing employees to safety hazards.
OSHA cited the company for exposing employees to struck-by, trip and fall hazards by failing to keep passageways and walking surfaces in a clean, orderly and sanitary condition. OSHA found unsafely stacked cases of merchandise and blocked emergency exits, and cited Dollar Tree for not maintaining access to portable fire extinguishers.
“These hazardous conditions unnecessarily exposed employees to potentially life-threatening injury,” said OSHA Area Director William Fulcher, in Atlanta-East. “There is no reason why the employees in this store should have been subjected to the same hazards previously identified and cited at other Dollar Tree locations.”
Dollar Tree Stores has a long history of serious and repeated violations related to unsafe stacking of merchandise and blocked exits. Since 2015, OSHA has cited the Chesapeake, Virginia-based company for similar violations at locations in Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Wisconsin, Idaho, Texas, New York, and Rhode Island.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to help ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education, and assistance.
New Jersey- Nearly one-third of the employers in the state hit with initial safety violation fines of $40K or more are government agencies. But many cases are settled for lesser amounts.
New Jersey employers have been hit with at least $16.6 million in fines since 2015 for having unsafe workplaces and conditions.
Fines levied by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration against employers in the state over the past five years peaked in 2017. In 2017, the federal agency levied more than $4.9 million in fines against at least 60 companies.
All told, the Network reviewed OSHA data of more than 200 enforcement cases with initial penalties of $40,000 and higher. Data for enforcement cases with penalties less than $40,000 were not available.
Most of the reviewed cases involved private employers. However, almost 30% of the penalties involved local, state or federal government agencies, the Network’s analysis shows. The initial penalties in those cases totaled more than $4 million.
The Network ‘s ranking of the data is based on the initial penalties OSHA levied against employers, not the final amount paid. Many of the cases the Network reviewed are still under appeal. Employers frequently enter into settlement agreements with OSHA for reduced penalties that require the employer to address the agency’s safety concerns.
For contractors and companies to avoid such fines, proper training and up-to-date standards practiced is essential.
Fort St. John, British Colombia – Peace River Hydro Partners has been fined $662,102.48 by WorkSafeBC. The fine was imposed on August 21, 2019, after a worker sustained an electrical shock injury. A worker was able to access the main circuit breaker in a high-voltage electrical cabinet for tunneling equipment.
According to WorkSafeBC, the main electrical breaker extensions on the exterior cabinet door were not functioning, the de-energization switches had been circumvented and the main breaker switch-box isolation covers were in disrepair.
WorkSafeBC staff also determined that it was a standard work practice at this site to access the main circuit breaker without following lockout procedures.
A stop-use order was issued for the tunneling equipment because Peace River Hydro Partners failed to ensure its equipment was capable of safely performing its functions, and was unable to provide its workers with the information, instruction, training, and supervision necessary to ensure their health and safety.
WorkSafeBC says these were both repeated violations.
This is the largest fine WorkSafeBC can issue under B.C. legislation. The report from WorkSafeBC did not disclose the condition of the worker or the exact date of the incident.
Ontario, Canada- September 19th was Black Thursday in Ontario’s electrical sector with three separate incidents of workers contacting overhead wires causing two electrocution deaths and injuring two others.
The spate of mishaps left construction, electrical and health and safety stakeholders upset, frustrated and searching for answers.
“The Electrical Safety Authority is very saddened to hear any time there are incidents of an electrical nature,” said Dr. Joel Moody, the ESA’s chief public safety officer. “Our thoughts are with the families who have experienced loss.”
Two of the three involved construction work. The third, in Kawartha Lakes, was at a private home where workers trimming a hedge on an elevated work platform contacted a powerline. One worker died and the other was injured.
In Vaughan, a Ministry of Labour report said a worker employed by Pontil Drilling Services sustained fatal injuries when a drill boom made contact with overhead power lines.
In Scarborough, east Toronto, a worker for Darcon was injured when a tower crane hit an overhead powerline. The job site constructor is Paramount Structures.
“This is a stark reminder of the dangers of working near electricity and clearly shows there is a need for more to be done to keep workers safe,” said James Barry, executive chairman of the IBEW Construction Council of Ontario, in an online statement.
There have been 1,250 reported overhead powerline contacts in Ontario in the last 10 years with an average of two deaths per year, making the pair of fatalities on Sept. 19 a full year’s worth statistically. The ESA says construction workers are at especially high risk with 60 per cent of powerline contacts occurring with dump trucks on construction sites.
The ESA responded to the mishaps with a statement urging awareness of the specific hazards related to working near wires. It’s a message that echoes those of the ESA’s Powerline Safety Week awareness campaign that’s launched at the start of construction season each May in Canada.
The ESA also works with utilities, haulers and arborists on a regular basis, Moody said.
“We urge situational awareness with a hazard assessment being the first thing they should do,” he said. “Be aware of your surroundings.”
“All of these incidents are preventable. Electricity is very lethal and unforgiving and having safe work practices every day is very important.”
“For the most part, if you look at the utilities, they live and breathe health and safety,” Kelusky said. “These weren’t utility workers, the guys dealing with the live stuff, they deal with it with great respect and understanding. That is a cultural thing from top to bottom.”
Despite the incidents of Sept. 19, Kelusky said, the statistics show construction is getting safer and that the construction sector in the province is developing a more integrated safety culture.
Responding to the comment urging that more be done, Kelusky said a major focus of his office is linking the diverse efforts of the health and safety community. His office has recently pledged to work with Ontario’s Industrial Health and Safety Association to undertake more research to be able to provide stronger tools to employers.
The approach to falls across the province in the last decade is a good example of how research can lead to program development and working with employers and employees to deliver results, Kelusky explained.
“What we want to do is supply labor and employers with more information other than, if you touch that it will hurt you,” he said, referring to electrical hazards. “We did that with falls and touch wood that seems to be going well.”
Looking ahead, Kelusky said, there are positive signs from Queen’s Park with the auditor general conducting a much-needed review of health and safety programs, the government reviewing the WSIB and signals from the new Minister of Labor, Monte McNaughton, that he is keenly interested in health and safety and working collaboratively with stakeholders. That’s on top of the WSIB’s new Health and Safety Excellence Program and the continuing growth of COR.
Eau Claire, WI – A cookie dough manufacturing facility in Eau Claire, Wisconsin faces $782,526 in penalties for “continually exposing employees to machine safety hazards.” Choice Products USA LLC was cited for similar machine safety violations following an OSHA inspection in 2016, and as a consequence has now been placed in OSHA’s severe violator enforcement program.
Choice Products was cited for five egregious willful violations for their failures to implement an effective lockout/tagout (LOTO) program. OSHA also found that employee training on lockout/tagout was inadequate to prevent worker’s from unintentional contact with machinery during service and maintenance activities. Federal workplace safety inspectors also determined that Choice Products failed to install proper machine guarding.
Choice Products had been cited in a 2016 inspection for exposing employees to similar lockout/tagout and machine safety hazards.OSHA’s severe violator enforcement program targets employers who have demonstrated what they term an “indifference” workplace safety obligations by committing “willful, repeated, or failure-to-abate violations.”
Houston, TX – OSHA has issued fines over $500,000 for amputation hazards found at a Houston-area rubber products manufacturing facility. Federal workplace safety investigators documented machine guarding failures that could result in employee injury or possible amputation hazards at Custom Rubber Products LLC.
According to OSHA, the rubber fabrication company has “continually failed” to properly guard machinery. As a result of what were deemed “egregious” willful violations, Custom Rubber Products LLC remains on OSHA’s Severe Violator list for continuing to expose workers to amputation hazards and Custom Rubber Products was issued $530,392 in penalties. This amount represents the maximum OSHA can fine based for these health and safety violations.
Custom Rubber Products was cited for four egregious willfull violations for machine guarding and caught-in hazards. The company has been the focus of OSHA investigators since receiving reports of a worker injury in 2014. At that time, OSHA fined Custom Rubber Products for similar hazards. In this 2019 inspection, OSHA officials found that those hazards had not yet been addressed.
OSHA’s acting regional administrator stated that “Employers are required to assess potential hazards, and make necessary corrections to ensure a safe workplace…The inspection results demonstrate workplace deficiencies existed [at Custom Rubber Products which put] workers at serious risk of injury.”
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 that “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.