Worker Loses 3 Fingers in Unguarded Punch Press Accident

unguarded punch pressNew 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.”

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OSHA Finds Safety Failures at Wilmington Fiber Manufacturer

Wilmington, DE – OSHA has proposed $86,800 in fines against Franklin Fibre-Lamitex Corporation, a manufacturer of industrial plastics. These fines stem from a dozen safety violations that officials say exposed workers to fire hazards, electrical shock and possible amputation.

The violations were recorded during repeat inspections of the company’s plant in Wilmington, DE. The most serious citation accuses Franklin Fibre of knowingly allowing combustible dust to accumulate on rafters, walls, floors and machinery. Inspectors said the plant specifically failed to operate a properly functioning dust-collection system or provide employees with flame-retardant clothing.

“People hear the word ‘dust’ and they don’t think ‘deadly’ – but under the right circumstances, a combustible dust explosion can level a building,” said Erin G. Patterson, director of OSHA’s Wilmington Area Office, said in a statement. “The machines at this facility generated the kind of dust that can cause a fatal, destructive explosion,” he said. “It’s critical that Franklin Fibre remove this hazard before a tragic incident occurs.”

Inspectors also cited the company for numerous electrical hazards – including exposed wires and dangling, ungrounded junction boxes – as well as operating lathes and table saws without the proper guards, and failing to adequately train some employees on how to use fire extinguishers or identify hazardous chemical labels.

OSHA reports that Franklin Fibre “is implementing interim abatement measure to address the combustible dust hazards until … a new dust collection system is installed” and that all other hazards identified in the citations have been abated by the company, she said.

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