This worker’s death was a case of production over safety, according to OSHA. Now the employer faces over $2.5 million in fines.
On June 18, 2016, 20-year-old Regina Allen Elsea was crushed to death by a robotic machine at the Joon LLC/Ajin USA plant in Cusseta, AL, which manufactures auto parts for Hyundai and Kia.
An assembly line had stopped, and Elsea and three co-workers entered a robotic station to clear a sensor fault.
The machine abruptly restarted, crushing Elsea inside. Her death occurred two weeks before her wedding day.
OSHA has issued 23 willful, serious and other-than-serious violations to Ajin, including 19 egregious instance-by-instance violations. Two staffing agencies were also fined. They provide 250 temporary employees to Ajin. The fines for all three companies total $2,565,621, with most of that filed again Ajin.
OSHA chief David Michaels is calling out Ajin, Hyundai and Kia, for putting production over safety.
“It is unfortunate that Hyundai and Kia, who set strict specifications on the parts they purchase from their suppliers, appear to be less concerned with the safety of the workers who manufacture those parts,” Michaels said.
“Kia and Hyundai’s on-demand production targets are so high that workers at their suppliers are often required to work six and sometimes seven days a week to meet the targets,” Michaels added. “It appears that – to reduce its own costs in meeting these targets – this supplier cut corners on safety, at the expense of workers’ lives and limbs.”
OSHA cited Ajin for:
- failing to use energy-control procedures to prevent machinery from starting up during maintenance
- exposing workers to caught-in, struck-by and crushing hazards by allowing them to enter a robotic cell without shutting down and securing hazardous stored energy
- failing to provide safety locks to isolate hazardous energy, and
- exposing employees to crushing and amputation hazards due to improper machine guarding.
OSHA has placed Ajin in its Severe Violators Enforcement Program. Under the program, OSHA may inspect any of the employer’s facilities if it believes there are similar hazards.
The companies have 15 business days from receipt of the citations to contest the findings before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.