Safety and OSHA News

American Apparel to pay $1M in death of employee

The retailer American Apparel has agreed to a $1 million settlement involving the death of an employee who was mangled by a knitting machine at a California plant.

The Orange County District Attorney’s Office obtained the settlement agreement with American Apparel, and it’s been approved by a California judge.

On Aug. 19, 2011, American Apparel employee Tuan Phan entered the cage of a knitting machine that was undergoing maintenance at the company’s Garden Grove, CA, facility. The machine was turned off, but it was still connected to a power source. It wasn’t properly locked or tagged out, and it restarted after Phan entered the machine cage. The DA’s Office says Phan was “mangled and killed by the machine.”

American Apparel faced a civil suit for failing to provide a safe work environment. The case was forwarded to prosecutors by Cal/OSHA.

The company is now under an injunction requiring:

  • compliance with workplace safety laws
  • safety training for employees, and
  • annual auditing of its facilities by Cal/OSHA.

The $1 million penalty includes:

  • $150,000 in restitution to Phan’s daughter
  • $283,000 in administrative and investigation costs to Cal/OSHA, and
  • over $566,000 in civil penalties.

American Apparel said it doesn’t believe it violated safety regulations, but it settled the civil suit to avoid the costs of drawn-out litigation. The company has been dealing with financial problems, including net losses for several years.

“In August 2011, an American Apparel knitting machine operator died in a tragic industrial accident,” the company said. “American Apparel has been and continues to be absolutely committed to providing its employees with a safe work place and fair wages in a sweat-shop free environment.”

Cal/OSHA had issued $100,285 in fines to American Apparel for violations including:

  • a willful violation ($70,000) for failure to train employees on the control of hazardous energy, including lockout/tagout, and
  • a serious violation ($25,000) for failure to lock out and tag out machinery during maintenance.

Cal/OSHA said American Apparel abated both of those violations.

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