Safety Violations Lead to Worker’s Death and Half a Million in Fines
Inspectors from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) fined Behr Iron & Steel more than $400,000 for numerous safety violations after a temporary worker died in a workplace accident.
On March 10, a 37-year-old Hispanic immigrant sustained serious injuries when his arm was caught in a conveyor belt at the scrap metal sorting facility. He eventually died from both internal and external injuries.
The unfortunate worker and several other temporary employees worked in the shredder and sorting process at the facility. OSHA determined that at least three of them had been exposed to unguarded machinery while performing their jobs.
Part of the workers’ responsibility was cleaning the shredder discharge pit, which required them to crawl into a small space and shovel metal scraps onto a conveyor belt. The belt was unguarded, exposing workers to “nip and shear points.”
Are Conveyor Belts Dangerous?
As we saw in this tragic accident, nip and shear points could slice or crush limbs if an employee gets caught in the machine. OSHA regulations require conveyor belts to have proper machine guarding to protect workers from dangerous access points.
OSHA also requires management to “lockout” a machine before it is cleaned or serviced, meaning the machine should be turned off and removed from a power source. Working on a live machine exposes workers to painful shocks, burns, cuts and other dangers from the machine’s moving parts.
According to OSHA’s assistant secretary of labor, Behr management knew the shredder was not being locked out or guarded while employees worked, but continued to allow it, because it increased efficiency.
The company received seven total violations, including failure to provide confined space training for workers entering the pit and failing to protect workers from electrocution. OSHA proposed $497,000 in penalties, and placed the company in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program.
Most workplace accidents are foreseeable and preventable, but some employers would rather cut corners than address the hazards. Tragic accidents like this show what happens when employers choose profits and efficiency over the welfare of their employees.
If you have been injured in a workplace accident, Larrimer & Larrimer can help you get the benefits you deserve. Discuss your case with a licensed attorney to learn more about your rights as a worker.
Larrimer & Larrimer, LLC—Columbus Workers Comp Attorneys