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.
Reynoldsburg, OH – In a fatal workplace accident this month, an employee was crushed between an expandable conveyor belt and a wall of boxes that had been loaded onto a truck at the L Brands facility outside of Columbus (OH).
Two L Brands employees were loading boxes of Bath and Body Works products onto a truck using an expandable conveyor when one became pinned between the machine and the stacked boxes and was crushed. Harvey Beavers was transported to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead. OSHA is investigating the fatal workplace accident.
Beavers is reported to have been pinned inside the truck for approximately 10 minutes before he was extricated. CPR was performed, he was transported to the hospital, and later pronounced dead. A co-worker was responsible for placing packages on the conveyer belt into the trailer. That employee reported noticing a red light above the conveyer, signifying a machinery malfunction or stoppage.
According to OSHA, Beavers was pinned facing the wall of boxes with the conveyer pressing into his lower back. The end of the conveyor that was against Beaver’s back contained all controls for moving the conveyer in and out of the trailer, as well as the emergency shut off. With the machine’s controls at his back, Beavers was unable to shut the expandable conveyor down himself and rescuers were forced to spend precious minutes unloading boxes full of product to get to him.
OSHA is actively investigating the fatality. L Brands Inc is a Columbus-based fashion retailer which includes brands like Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works.
Edgewood, FL – An employee of an Orlando-area marble and granite facility died after being crushed by a machine he was cleaning earlier this month.
The worker has been identified as Shawn Knowles (age 44). Emergency responders were initially called to handle an arm injury, after co-workers found Knowles hurt but conscious. Unfortunately, he subsequently lost consciousness from the shock of the injury and went into cardiac arrest.
According to area fire rescue personnel, Knowles is reported to have been hosing down a water trench surrounding an automated machine when he was pushed into the wedge by the heavy device. He was crushed by a beam and a piece of the machinery. Firefighters arrived and began resuscitation efforts. Knowles was taken to the Orlando Regional Medical Center where he later died.
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.
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.
Cookeville, TN – Police report that a loose valve cap has caused the death of an employee at M&E Industries.
A valve cap on a highly pressurized tank came loose and hit M&E Industries employee Dewey Mayberry in the chest, critically injuring him. Mayberry was taken to a local medical center where he was pronounced dead.
Dewey Mayberry, age 65, had worked at the M&E Industries plant since 2003. He is reported to have been performing his typical daily job duties when the accident occurred. Local police describe the valve cap as being thick metal and estimate it to have been the size of a “salad plate…about six inches in diameter.”
The M&E Industries facility in Cookeville produces refueling equipment such as filters, filter housings, and filter separators.
Tar 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.
Orlando, FL – A fatal combination of slip/fall and confined space hazards lead to the death of Harvest Power employee John Korody. Korody died after falling into a vat filled with oil and grease outside of Walt Disney World last month. The slip/fall hazard was compounded by overwhelming fumes surrounding the oil vat.
The accident happened at the Harvest Power facility that contracts with Disney World to recycle the resort’s food waste and convert it into renewable energy and fertilizers.
Two Harvest Power employees were emptying oil and grease byproduct from a semi-truck into a vat when Korody slipped on a grate and fell in. Korody’s co-worker tried to pull him to safety but fumes from the oil and grease byproduct overwhelmed both workers, and Korody slipped farther into the vat. Korody was pronounced dead at the scene, and the local Fire Department helped to recover his body.
OSHA estimates that about 90 deaths involving confined spaces occur every year in the US and unfortunately, two-thirds of those killed are workers attempting to rescue someone else from the confined space.
Many workplaces contain areas that are considered “confined spaces” because while they were not necessarily designed for people, they are large enough for workers to enter and perform certain jobs. A confined space also has limited or restricted means for entry or exit and is not designed for continuous occupancy. Such spaces include (but are not limited to) tanks, vessels, silos, storage bins, hoppers, vaults, pits, manholes, tunnels, vats, equipment housings, ductwork, and pipelines.
OSHA outlines national workplace safety standards for permit-required confined spaces and the serious hazards they post to American workers. In addition to the difficultly in accessing and exiting confined spaces, these sites are often inadequately ventilated and/or trap noxious air. Without proper training, signage, and hazard mitigation planning, confined space conditions can result in tragic fatalities.
Surgoinsville, TN – Five serious workplace safety violations have been documented at MIS Industries in an investigation following a February 12 lockout/tagout accident that killed 34-year-old Arthur James Hendrickson. Hendrickson was crushed while retrieving a part that had jammed a hangar blaster machine at the Tennessee metal finishing facility.
Local officials say that Hendrickson climbed into the hangar blaster to remove a part that had gotten lodged in the equipment. Once he removed the piece, the door closed and Hendrickson was trapped. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
In the course of the investigation, TOSHA (Tennessee Occupational Safety and Health Administration) discovered that neither of the MIS team leaders could recall receiving training on Lockout/Tagout (LOTO) and were ignorant of any of the energy control procedures.
The TOSHA investigator concluded that team leaders on duty initiated maintenance activities on the Hangar Blaster without ensuring that the machine was de-energized to prevent unexpected startup. Lockout/Tagout is sometimes referred to as Hazardous Energy Control (or the Control of Hazardous Energy) – these terms refer to the same standard of preventing unexpected start up or movement of equipment.
It is estimated that 3 million workers service equipment and these employees face the greatest risk of injury if Lockout/Tagout is not properly implemented. Compliance with the 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. In a study conducted by the United Auto Workers (UAW), 20% of the fatalities that occurred among their members were attributed to inadequate lockout/tagout and hazardous energy control procedures.
TOSHA concluded that MIS did not make use of its energy control program, did not effectively train employees on their role in Lockout/Tagout, and also neglected to conduct periodic evaluations of their LOTO program.
The five serious violations were: employees were exposed to a caught-in hazard as they failed to apply energy control measures to the Hangar Blaster machine; written lockout procedures failed to clearly and specifically outline the steps for safely shutting down, isolating and securing machinery and equipment to control hazardous energy; MIS failed to conduct annual inspection of their lockout procedures; employees were not instructed in the purpose and use of lockout procedures; and machine guarding were found to be insufficient to protect the operator and other employees in the machine area from hazards.
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.
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.
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.