Behr Pleads Guilty in Case of Employee’s Death

Rockford, IL – Willful violation of lockout/tagout and confined space protections at Behr Iron & Steel resulted in an employee’s death at the recycling company’s South Beloit facility in 2014. This week, Behr representatives were in federal court where they plead guilty to willful violation of US safety standards.

The sentencing date is set for July of this year. Behr Iron & Steel faces a maximum sentence of 5 years’ probation and a maximum fine of $500,000. Additionally, it must pay restitution to the victim in an amount to be determined by the court.

The US Department of Justice charged that the metal scrap processing plant failed to provide lockout and tagout protection and confined space protection as required by OSHA regulations for employees tasked with cleaning a metal shredder discharge pit.

Behr admitted these violations caused the death of employee Alfredo Arrendondo, 39. Arrendondo died after his arm was caught in a moving, unguarded conveyor belt at the facility on March 10, 2014.

The US Attorney’s Office found that shredded metals at the Behr facility fell onto a conveyor belt located underground in a discharge pit approximately 6 feet long and 6 feet wide. Some metals fell off the belt into the pit, and one or two employees were sent down to clean it out daily by shoveling the metals from the floor onto a moving conveyor belt. It was in this area that Arrendondo’s arm was caught and he was killed by the unguarded live machinery.

In the plea agreement, Behr admitted that there was no lock or operable emergency shut off switch in the discharge pit, and the conveyor belt did not have guards to protect employees. Further, the company admitted that employees in the pit were not adequately trained to use the shredder or the conveyor belt, and there were not confined space protections for employees entering the pit.

In accordance with the plea agreement, Behr Iron & Steel must adopt procedures that ensure dangerous machines are properly shut off during maintenance and servicing work, including placing a lock on the power source and a tag on the lock warning that the machine cannot be operated. Additionally, OSHA regulations require safety precautions for workers in confined spaces.

Based in Rockford (IL), Behr Iron & Steel is a subsidiary of Joseph Behr and Sons Inc., a recycling company founded in 1906. the company employs about 450 people at 14 facilities in Illinois, Wisconsin and Iowa.

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