OSHA has the option to refer cases involving fatalities for criminal prosecution. In this case, criminal prosecution has resulted in a large financial settlement.
On Nov. 7, 2011, employee Larry Kinzer, 42, was caught in a machine at the Adams Thermal Systems plant in Canton, SD. He was fatally crushed in the machine which is used to make radiator cores. OSHA says the company bypassed the manufacturer’s barrier guard to keep the machine running.
Adams faced three willful citations with a $210,000 fine as a result of the OSHA investigation following Kinzer’s death for failing to:
- develop energy control procedures
- provide machine guarding, and
- effectively train employees on recognizing hazardous energy and taking safety precautions.
OSHA conducted follow-up inspections in August 2012, and found 58 serious and 8 other-than-serious violations including unguarded machinery, electrical hazards, and exposures to chemicals, dust and noise. Those violations totaled $225,000.
Adams was placed in the Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which requires follow-up inspections. OSHA also recommended criminal charges against the company. The U.S. Attorney for the District of South Dakota investigated and filed criminal charges.
Now, Adams has agreed to pay $1.335 million in a deferred prosecution agreement: $450,000 to the worker’s surviving spouse, $450,000 in criminal fines and the full OSHA fine of $435,000.
The agreement includes enhanced abatement of violations, including:
- increasing the size of its safety department
- implementing a company-wide safety and health program
- providing incentives for managers and workers to report safety issues and make safety recommendations
- hiring a qualified third-party to review guarding and lockout/tagout for all plant machinery and to audit abatement of all identified hazards
- reporting to OSHA quarterly for three years on safety progress, and
- redesigning the safety systems and procedures on the radiator core machine involved in the fatality.
“There is no excuse for an employer to compromise safety to keep production running,” said OSHA administrator David Michaels.
“The purpose of this settlement is to provide justice to the family and deter similar corporate conduct in the future,” said U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson.
Given the circumstances, do you think this is a reasonable settlement? Let us know what you think in the comments below.