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.
North Platte, NE – OSHA issued fines this week to Western Engineering Company Inc for violations found following an employee death. In 2018, a Western Engineering employee suffered fatal injuries after being pulled into an unguarded slat/drag conveyor at the company’s Nebraska asphalt plant.
In a statement, OSHA’s Omaha Area Office Director said that “Employers are required to develop safety and health programs that address known hazards and ensure that safety procedures are followed to prevent tragedies such as this from recurring.”
The confined space violations included failure to develop a confined space entry program; failure to issue safety permits; failure to test atmospheric conditions; and failure to provide air testing and monitoring equipment.
28-year-old Andrew Martinez (of Weslaco, TX) was fatally injured at Western Engineering’s North Platte (NE) facility in November of 2018 when he was pulled into an unguarded slat/drag conveyor on the job. On the day of the event, emergency workers were called to the plant for body recovery. Upon arrival, they discovered the Martinez pinned in the machinery and deceased.
If you have any concerns about safety at your facility, please contact the Industrial Safety Experts at Martin Technical. 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 simplify the complex by offering real-world solutions for Lockout/Tagout, Arc Flash, Electrical Safety, Risk Assessments, Machine Safety, Safety Consulting Services, and Employee Training.
In an interview with the Miami Herald, Higgins general manager Andres Perea stated that OSHA “showed up with four inspectors for the first inspection…Then they came back four more times.” The Herald described Perea’s reaction as stunned. He also stated that the North Miami facility had “never had a death, never had an amputation. In the last five years, we’ve had five injuries. The worst was a sprained knee.”
Records indicate that prior to the fall 2018 inspections, OSHA hadn’t inspected the Higgins pet food facility in the past 10 years. In the case of a location, industry, or company without a history of OSHA transgressions, inspections are generally triggered by an incident or complaint. In this instance, the two inspections of the Higgins facility were initiated by worker complaints and referral of another agency.
In their statement on the charges against Higgins, OSHA’s Area Director said that the violations found at the pet food manufacturing facility “put employees at risk for serious or fatal injuries. OSHA also stressed in that same statement that “employers must assess their workplace for potential safety and health hazards, and are encouraged to contact the local OSHA office for assistance with establishing and improving safety and health programs.”
The Miami Herald predicts that as this is Higgins first OSHA offence, it is possible that OSHA and Higgins will be able to settle the fines for less than the initially imposed $95,472. Higgins Premium Pet Foods makes natural pet foods for birds and small animals, and is operated by a company called The Higgins Group.
Green Bay, WI – JBS Green Bay faces $221,726 in federal workplace safety fines after equipment violations led to a lockout/tagout accident that injured an employee’s hand. OSHA issued one willful violation and 10 serious violations after their investigation documented a lack of machine guarding and lockout failures at the Green Bay (WI) beef processing facility.
According to the Department of Labor, a JBS employee “reached into a machine to move a box when the rake activated and caught his left hand, pulling it into the machine.” The employee suffered a fracture, puncture wounds, lacerations, and a pinched nerve as a result.
More than half of the $221,726 total fine was for the willful violation. OSHA defines willful violations as those “in which the employer either knowingly failed to comply with a legal requirement or acted with plain indifference to employee safety.”
JBS was cited for not having machine guards which protect workers from dangerous parts and moving machinery. OSHA’s inspection also noted a serious violation related to failure to turn off machinery prior to maintenance or service work.
Another of the serious violations was for not having “developed and documented” lockout tagout procedures. These written documents outline equipment-specific instructions for how to safely de-energize equipment. Lockout/Tagout safety measures keep workers safe while they perform maintenance and service tasks like the act of clearing a jammed machine that precipitated this accident.
New Castle, DE – A worker lost three fingers following an lockout/tagout accident involving a punch press at Wilmington Fibre Specialty Company Inc.
OSHA has cited the New Castle (DE) vulcanized fiber manufacturer for exposing employees to multiple workplace safety hazards totaling $146,152 in proposed penalties.
The violations stem from an accident in December of 2017, during which an employee at the Wilmington Fibre Specialty Company reached into the die of a press to dislodge a jam. Unfortunately, as the worker reached into the machine, he also stepped on a lever that started the machine. The die came down on the employee’s hand, resulting in the amputation of three fingers.
OSHA inspected Wilmington Fibre Specialty and found that the facility’s punch press had inadequate machine guarding and that the company failed to enforce mandated safety procedures. OSHA documented violations including inadequate machine guarding, failure to use lockout/tagout procedures to control hazardous energy, and failure to report the incident.
Additionally, OSHA cited the company for multiple maintenance failures: failure to perform maintenance, repairs and safeguards where employees were exposed to amputation hazards; failure to perform maintenance and inspections on multiple parts of the punch press; and failure to ensure employees received proper training and were competent in operating the machinery.
Wilmington Fibre Specialty was also cited for inadequate lockout tag out procedures. Lockout/Tagout procedures are written instructions detailing how to isolate and lock each energy source for a given piece of equipment. Implementing Lockout/Tagout, having procedures visible to the workforce, and training workers on how to safely maintain equipment all help to prevent the startup of machinery that may result in a worker injury.
The OSHA inspection also revealed machine safety failures, specifically the failure to use safety blocks. Safety blocks should have been inserted between the upper and lower dies during machine maintenance to prevent the dies from sliding down.
Lastly, Wilmington Fibre Specialty was cited for failing to report the incident. OSHA was alerted to the need for a workplace safety inspection only after noticing coverage of the amputation in local news media reports.
As stated by OSHA Wilmington Area Office Director Erin Patterson, “When lockout/tagout is not implemented and machines are not guarded, employees are exposed to hazards that can cause amputations, and other serious injuries.”
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, and 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.
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 Polymers 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.
Helena, AL – An employee of ABC Polymer Industries was killed on the job this month. Eva Saenz, 45, was sucked into an industrial machine after getting caught in the roller at the Alabama plastics factory.
According to Shelby County Coroner Lina Evans, it appeared that Saenz “was working next to the rollers and bent down to cut some of the plastic…with a box cutter and actually got pulled up into the rollers.” Upon their arrival, fire medics determined that the victim was deceased and the Shelby County Coroner’s Office was notified. Coroner Evans said Saenz was pronounced dead at the scene from blunt force injuries incurred in the industrial machinery.
The ABC Polymer Industries factory in Helena (AL) makes extruded polypropylene products including, bulk bags, synthetic snow, fibrillated yarns, and specific fibers for concrete. According to their website, ABC Polymer is one of the largest suppliers in North America of flexible intermediate bulk containers and polypropylene concrete fibers.
Delair, NJ – Aluminum Shapes LLC faces proposed federal safety fines of $1.9 million following workplace accidents that hospitalized two employees at its NJ plant. The aluminum parts manufacturer stands accused of 51 safety and health violations, but contends that the new OSHA fee structure “results in higher fine amounts and unfair media attention, even as conditions improve.”
OSHA fines and penalties increased 78% in the fall of 2016 after legislation took effect which required federal agencies to adjust their civil penalties to account for inflation. The last update to OSHA’s penalty/fine structure occurred in 1990, so this recent jump reflects 26 years without increase or update.
Two serious injuries and hospitalizations at Aluminum Shapes were brought to OSHA’s attention during an inspection that began in January 2017. In separate incidents, an employee was hospitalized for chemical burns and another worker’s pelvis was broken by unguarded moving parts of a metal fabrication machine.
Additionally, OSHA cited Aluminum Shapes for repeat violations which included electrical hazards. Fines for repeat violations have increased from $70,000 per infraction to $124,709 per under the new fine structure.
While Aluminum Shapes maintains that it takes workplace safety “extremely seriously” and noted an ongoing effort to upgrade protections for its employees, OSHA reports that the company has been assessed more than $500,000 in penalties for 60 violations since 2011.
Aluminum Shapes LLC supplies construction firms, automakers, and other industries, and employs about 400.
Oregon, OH – Proper machine guarding and employee training could have prevented an amputation at the Autoneum North America plant just across the river from Toledo, OH. The auto parts maker is being fined $570,000 after a worker lost his right hand and part of his arm in an industrial accident.
Federal investigators report that a 46-year-old man was feeding scrap material into an unguarded shredding machine in December when he was hurt. OSHA says the accident was preventable and therefore cited the Autoneum plant for three of its highest safety violations. Federal officials cited the company for lacking proper protective guards and failing to train workers on proper operating procedures.
Autoneum North America makes automotive insulation at the factory in Oregon, OH