In February 2014, a machine operator at a steel mill in Youngstown, Ohio was crushed between an activated transfer paddle and a stationary electrical box. He suffered multiple pelvic fractures and was unable to return to work.
The Vallourec Star facility where the man worked produces steel tubing for oil and gas applications. When the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) conducted a follow-up inspection, it realized that management at the steel mill regularly exposed their employees to amputation, crushing and fall hazards.
OSHA inspectors determined that the employee was injured, because management failed to install machine guards, which protect workers from a machine’s moving parts. Exposed gears and wiring can lead to painful electric shocks, deep lacerations and crushing injuries.
Vallourec Star management had also failed to implement lockout/tagout procedures, which require employees to move machines away from power sources while they undergo maintenance or repair. These procedures significantly lower the risk of workers being injured by a defective machine.
The steel mill received yet another citation for failing to provide adequate fall protection, allowing employees to work around unguarded floor openings and open platforms without guardrails. Falls from as low as six feet can lead to broken bones, lacerations and brain injuries for workers.
OSHA agents found more than 20 health and safety violations during their inspection, which amounted to $92,000 in fines for the steel mill. When you factor in the employee’s hospital bills and lost wages, along with lost productivity and the required upgrades for the facility, you realize Vallourec Star will pay dearly for its oversight.
Employers have proven time and time again that the safest, most efficient way to run a workplace is to abide by OSHA regulations and address hazards in a timely manner. However, some managers would still prefer to cut corners, putting their employees and their businesses in danger.
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