3M Fined More than $300k for 2022 Worker Death 

15 Nov, 2023 Liz Carey

                               

Prairie du Chien, WI (WorkersCompensation.com) – Federal investigators at OSHA announced Friday that they had fined Maplewood, Minn.-based 3M over the death of an employee at its Wisconsin plant this spring.  

Officials said 3M could have prevented the death of an employee in May when they got caught while setting up a plastic extrusion line if the company had following federal workplace safety regulations.  

In May, Trisha Jones, 57, of Harper’s Ferry, Iowa, died when she was caught in a machine’s rotating rollers. First responders were called to the plant on a report that someone had been injured at the facility. When medical crews arrived, they found Jones suffering from severe injuries. She later died at the scene.  

Investigators said 3M failed to use safe procedures for setting up the production line and allowed workers to circumvent machine guarding to cut and remove wrapped fibers at the plant. They cited the company for two willful violations and proposed a penalty of $312,518.  

The fatal accident came a year after a similar incident killed another worker at a different 3M plant.  

In that incident, in February 2022, a 67-year-old worker at the company’s Alexandria, Minn. Plant was killed after they became entangled with a machine during the overnight shift. An OSHA inspection found that the employee was running sand paper through a Slitter Winder that is used to bend the sand paper around a series of rollers before wrapping it around a cardboard tube. The employee had loaded an empty cardboard tube on the winder and had run some of the sand paper onto the roll when he got caught by the winder bar. The inspection found that the employee was wrapped around the bar multiple times, nearly amputating his arm and breaking several bones in his face and chest.  

3M was cited with a serious violation and fined $25,000.  

Following the 2022 accident, the company assessed its equipment at all U.S. and Canadian plants. According to OSHA Regional Administrator Bill Donovan in Chicago, the company knew the machines were hazardous.  

OSHA said the company violated federal regulations for the control of hazardous energy during set-up, servicing and operation of the machine.  

"The tragedy of another employee's death in Wisconsin is compounded by the fact that the 3M Company completed a corporate-wide review and determined powered rollers were hazards in need of safety improvements," Donovan said in a statement. "The company must address these hazards immediately to protect employees from serious injuries or worse." 

In a statement, a 3M spokesperson said the company is addressing employee safety.  

“The safety and health of all our employees is our top priority, and we are deeply saddened by this tragic incident. Over the last six months, we have worked closely with federal workplace safety and health regulators in connection with their inspection of our Prairie du Chien worksite,” the spokesperson said. “In addition, 3M has continued to implement improvements and investments to help prevent similar incidents in the future and communicated these improvements to our employees at the worksite.” 

3M is a Fortune 200 company producing more than 60,000 products under several brand names, including adhesives, tapes, insulation and other products. Originally founded as the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company more than a century ago, he company is now a U.S.-based multinational corporation. With more than 34,000 employee in the U.S., including about 500 at the Prairie du Chien facility, the company reported gross profits of more than $5.7 billion last year.  

The proposed penalty represents less than 0.005 percent of the company’s annual profits.  

The company has 15 days to comply with the citation and penalties, or to request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or to contest the findings before an independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.  

The company said it is in the process of evaluating OSHA’s citation and penalty and will work with the U.S. Department of Labor to address the matter.  


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    About The Author

    • Liz Carey

      Liz Carey has worked as a writer, reporter and editor for nearly 25 years. First, as an investigative reporter for Gannett and later as the Vice President of a local Chamber of Commerce, Carey has covered everything from local government to the statehouse to the aerospace industry. Her work as a reporter, as well as her work in the community, have led her to become an advocate for the working poor, as well as the small business owner.

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