Safety and OSHA News

OSHA reacts to amputation hazards: $3M fine, public ridicule

An Alabama company faces more than $3 million in OSHA fines for exposing workers to amputation hazards and other problems at two plants. When it comes to punishing the company, OSHA didn’t stop there.

As part of a new policy, Whitesell Corp. has also been sharply condemned by OSHA.

Last month, we told you about one of the new weapons in OSHA’s arsenal, “regulation by shaming.” OSHA hopes public condemnation of business activities that result in serious injury or death will act as a deterrent. The agency said it would issue more hard-hitting press releases that explain clearly why an employer faced a large fine.

OSHA called its inspections at the Whitesell factories the worst they’ve conducted at an Alabama organization in a decade.

The agency started its inspection of the company’s plant in Tuscumbia in March after receiving a report that a worker’s hand had been amputated.

Investigators say Whitesell adjusted equipment to speed up production and therefore put workers in immediate danger.

The conditions were so bad that OSHA extended the inspection to Whitesell’s Muscle Shoals plant. It found serious hazards there as well.

“Whitesell willfully tampered with the safety mechanisms of its hydraulic forging presses at its Tuscumbia plant to speed up production, resulting in the amputation of a worker’s hand,” Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis is quoted as saying in a press release. Solis went on to describe Whitesell as a company that valued “short-term gain over their workers’ safety.”

Public condemnation, indeed. Local media reported the fines with “worst in decade” headlines.

For the Tuscumbia plant, OSHA issued $986,500 in penalties for 14 willful and 6 serious and 2 other-than-serious violations. At the Muscle Shoals plant, OSHA issued $2.08 million in penalties for 29 willful and 21 serious violations.

Do you think OSHA’s “shaming strategy” will help improve workplace safety? Let us know what you think in the Comments Box below.

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  • Jason

    This company is lucky there wern’t shut down until these hazards could be corrected. Of course it would impact their workers and their families the most but so would losing a finger, hand, arm , or worse!

  • Wayne

    I don’t think the shame factor will have much impact. It’s the revenue that business’s want; who care what people think.

  • Sharon

    As long as there are ethical people and ethical business practices – which I admit seem few and far between – then the shaming strategy should have an impact. I personally boycott any business that I know treats its employees poorly or ignores regulations; and as a businessowner, I would do the same. What a sad state we will be in when the shame factor no longer works; that would mean nobody had a functioning conscience any more. America has got to be better than that.

  • http://SafetyNewsAlert Dana

    I’m with Wayne! Most people tend to look over articles about safety unless they are safety professionals.

  • Dave B

    The CEO, CFO and other corporate execs will probably all get bonuses for keeping fines down to $3 million, and the company has an excuse to avoid giving raises this year. When everything settles down, I’ll bet they end up saving more money from withholding raises than they pay in fines so be ready to give the Execs another bonus.

  • EHSGuy

    I’m ashamed we’ve allowed OSHA to be overrun with jackbooted politicos. What the progressives can’t accomplish through legislation they attempt to accomplish through regulation. I’d like to see American businesses stand together and say, to borrow a line from the move Grosse Point Blank, “Ya can’t come in.” Get a court order, search warrant or subpoena – until they’ve learned their rightful position in society and government. I am much more afraid of government than business. No one can force me to work in an unsafe industry, plant or job. Apparently this government can force me to do about anything. OSHA’s politcal overlords cause me to doubt their alledged committment to safety on nearly every issue.

  • Kim H.

    That many WILLFULL violations and no mention of JAIL time. Heck with the shame factor, follow through with the stiff punishment, that will get the business community to think through production over safety. I would rather see a $100 fine coupled with 1-5 years in jail for the responsible parties to include the Safety Manager that looked the other way.

  • Michelle

    I think shaming will NOT work. It’s all about the almighty dollar. I recently (3 months ago) had my fingertip (knuckle to end) amuptated due to a non-guarded machine & no warning signs on the machine of possible injury. I was treated poorly by my work & told me they’d seen “worse injuries than that” & “I’d be fine”. To my knowledge, OSHA never came into my work place to investigate… Maybe they weren’t contacted. I believe the only way to make these companies understand how life changing ANY injury can be, they need to pay dearly.