Safety and OSHA News

Company faces $1.9M in fines for amputation and fall hazards

Once again, OSHA has proposed a million-dollar fine for an employer with a history of violations.

OSHA has fined Phenix Lumber Co., Phenix City, AL, $1,939,000 for violations including exposing employees to amputation and fall hazards. Some of the citations are categorized as egregious. In other words, there are multiple violations of the same regulation.

Phenix had been cited 77 times previously by OSHA for serious safety violations since 2007.

On Dec. 15, 2010, OSHA responded to a complaint that employees working in a Phenix mill were exposed to amputation hazards while maintaining, cleaning and clearing jams on machinery that didn’t have their energy sources locked out to prevent unexpected startup.

Two months later, OSHA received a second complaint that an employee had suffered a partial finger amputation while clearing a machine that hadn’t been locked out.

During the second inspection, the OSHA compliance officer learned of another employee who had just suffered a severe hand injury while working on an unguarded machine.

OSHA issued 24 willful violations, including failure to properly shut down and lock out 13 pieces of machinery before employees were required to clear jams and clean them. Phenix faces the maximum penalty for each of those willful citations, $70,000.

Citations for additional willful violations include:

  • exposing a worker to fall hazards while working from the top of a machine
  • not issuing locks to employees as required by the lockout standard, and
  • failing to follow established lockout/tagout procedures.

OSHA has proposed that the employer be included in its Severe Violators Enforcement Program which focuses on companies that endanger workers by committing willful, repeat or failure-to-abate violations. Inclusion in the program subjects employers to mandatory follow-up inspections, corporate-wide agreements, enhanced settlement provisions and federal court enforcement.

Phenix has 15 days to decide whether to contest the fines.

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