An Alabama plastics manufacturer pleaded guilty Jan. 10 to a willful violation of an OSHA standard that caused a worker’s death.
ABC Polymer Industries LLC pleaded guilty to the violation that led to the Aug. 16, 2017, death of a worker at the company’s plant in Helena, Alabama.
Company trained employees to bypass guards
The worker had been pulled into an extrusion machine’s cluster of unguarded moving rollers and killed.
ABC Polymer operated multiple plastic extrusion lines at the facility, with the machinery pulling plastic sheets through a series of rollers arranged into clusters before cutting them into threads or tapes.
The machine involved in the worker’s death was equipped with a barrier guard that could be pulled down over the exposed sides of the rollers.
OSHA requires this sort of machinery to be guarded while it’s energized. However, the company was aware that employees routinely raised the guard to cut tangled plastic off the rollers while the machine was in operation. Further, the company admitted it trained employees to do so. ABC Polymer admitted that it knew that these practices exposed employees to a risk of injury or death in violation of federal law.
‘Victim’s tragic death was entirely preventable’
“This victim’s tragic death was entirely preventable,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “Employers who willfully violate OSHA standards are gambling with their employees’ health and lives. We will continue to hold accountable those who fail to follow these critical safety rules.”
Willfully failing to follow an OSHA safety standard where the failure causes the death of an employee is a class B misdemeanor under federal law. Conviction carries a maximum sentence of a $500,000 fine or twice the financial gain to the defendant or twice the financial loss to another, whichever is greater, and restitution to the victim.
Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 24.