Safety and OSHA News

Judge upholds OSHA citations in amputation case, increases fine to $103K

In a case involving arm and finger amputations, a judge not only upheld most of the citations issued by OSHA, he increased the fines the company will pay by 37%. 

A temporary worker’s right lower arm and three fingers on his left hand were amputated by a mechanical power press at Matsu Alabama’s Huntsville plant.

OSHA issued eight citations to Matsu, a manufacturer and supplier of automotive parts, dba Matcor Automotive.

One repeat violation was for failure to guard rotating chucks and spindles on milling and drilling machines. One other-than-serious citations was issued for failing to record an amputation and the resulting lost time on the OSHA 300 log within seven days.

OSHA also issued six serious violations for failing to:

  • guard the point of operation on a mechanical power press, which led to the amputation
  • provide safety procedures to prevent machinery from starting up during maintenance
  • conduct power press inspections to ensure safety devices and auxiliary equipment were effective and operating properly
  • provide training and instruction on safely operating the mechanical power press
  • reduce compressed air for cleaning to less than 30 pounds per square inch, and
  • prevent press operators from changing the press mode without supervision.

An administrative law judge (ALJ) of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC) threw out the last item in the list above.

Despite that, he decided to increase the fine for the repeat violation to the maximum of $70,000, which increased the total to $103,000.

Matsu used Surge Staffing LLC as an on-site temporary staffing service. OSHA didn’t issue citations to Surge.

“The worker was primarily assigned to perform janitorial duties and had no experience operating a mechanical power press,” said Kurt Petermeyer, OSHA’s regional administrator in Atlanta.

An attorney representing Matsu said Petermeyer’s statement is “totally false,” according to AL.com. The attorney said the worker wasn’t simply a janitor who wandered in and started operating a machine. The company claims the worker was trained on the presses both in the classroom and via on-the-job training.

The operator suffered the amputations because he didn’t follow the rules, according to the company attorney.

The company intends to appeal the ALJ’s ruling to the three-member OSHRC panel in Washington, DC.

ALJ decisions become final in 30 days unless one of the parties appeals.

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