Safety and OSHA News

Worker died inside kiln; company agrees to pay $545K in OSHA fines

A failure to abide by OSHA’s lockout/tagout and confined space regulations resulted in the death of a plant manager inside a kiln. Now the company has to pay a huge fine. 

Marshall Pottery Inc. of Marshall, TX, has reached a settlement with OSHA, including a $545,160 penalty after the death of assistant plant manager, Arturo Gonzalez, inside a kiln.

On April 16, 2017, Gonzalez was servicing a kiln and became trapped inside when it activated. An automated process took control of the kiln, closing its door while Gonzalez was still inside, according to OSHA. Gonzalez was killed from extreme exposure to thermal energy within the kiln.

Marshall Pottery was cited for similar violations in 2008 after another fatality at the plant.

OSHA cited the company for six willful and 21 serious citations, with 11 violations having to do with lockout/tagout or confined spaces (see details on the violations here and here).

None of the violations were dismissed in the settlement, although penalties were reduced. The original total was $829,891. The settlement results in a 34% reduction in the fines.

Companies that are fined by OSHA can either accept the citations and pay the penalties, contest them before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, or enter into talks with OSHA. Marshall Pottery had an informal conference with the OSHA area director. OSHA and Marshall Pottery reached the settlement at the meeting. As part of the settlement, the company agreed to abate the violations.

Marshall Pottery has also been sued by Gonzalez’s family for more than $1 million.

Gonzalez’s family has filed a wrongful death civil lawsuit alleging that as a direct result of the company’s negligence, Gonzalez’s spouse has incurred funeral and burial expenses, pain and suffering, and mental anguish.

The lawsuit also alleges Marshall Pottery negligently caused the death of Gonzalez by failing to:

  • provide Gonzalez with a proper and safe work environment, including safe tools and equipment
  • adequately supervise, monitor and train their employees
  • hire, train and ensure that only qualified or adequately trained employees operated hazardous machinery
  • install emergency kill switches or otherwise provide appropriate egress from the kiln
  • use effective software and computer programming to control the automated operation of the kiln
  • monitor, inspect and test the reliability of the software and computer programming controlling the automated operation of the kiln, and
  • creating an unsafe work environment which the company knew or should have known presented an unreasonable risk of harm to Gonzalez.

 

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