East Peoria, IL (WorkersCompensation.com) - Hagel Metal Fabrication Inc., has been cited by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration for 12 safety and health violations after a 23-year-old worker was fatally crushed Feb. 22 by an automated laser-cutting machine. During the investigation, workers made formal complaints, which prompted two additional OSHA inspections at the East Peoria metal manufacturing plant.
"The company failed to implement the most basic of safety precautions - and the result was a terrible tragedy. This case demonstrates an egregious disregard of worker safety and health," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. "Employers have a responsibility to provide a safe workplace."
Three willful violations include: bypassing machine safeguards on two laser-cutting machines and the failures to lock out sources of hazardous machine energy. These safeguards were designed to prevent employees from being in areas of the machine where they could be struck and crushed by moving parts. Two additional serious violations include unguarded open-sided floors and platforms causing a fall hazard. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirement, or plain indifference to employee safety and health.
"This tragedy could have been prevented if the company ensured adequate machine guarding, effective lockout-tagout procedures and worker training on hazards," said Tom Bielema, OSHA's area director in Peoria. "The company willfully violated OSHA's Machine Guarding Standard, compromising worker safety and well-being."
After the incident, OSHA found other employees exposed to amputation hazards while operating a power press brake because the guard had not been set up properly. OSHA issued a willful violation for this hazard.
Six serious citations were also issued for failing to: inspect powered industrial trucks before service and to remove them if they are damaged, mark the load capacity of lifting devices, provide training on hazardous energy control procedures and implement an effective lockout/tagout program to protect workers during machine servicing. OSHA also cited the company for work areas with potentially hazardous accumulations of powder coating dusts and for failing to implement an effective respiratory protection program with worksite-specific procedures. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.
Because of the hazards and the violations cited, Hagel Metal Fabrication has been placed in OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which mandates targeted follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with the law. OSHA's SVEP focuses on recalcitrant employers that endanger workers by committing willful, repeat or failure-to-abate violations. Under the program, OSHA may inspect any of the employer's facilities if it has reasonable grounds to believe there are similar violations.
Hagel Metal Fabrication has been inspected by OSHA on seven previous occasions since 1989, resulting in the issuance of 23 citations including willful and serious citations for exposing workers to amputation injuries and machine guarding hazards. There are approximately 90 workers at the company.
The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
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