A federal grand jury has indicted two managers, alleging they lied and threatened employees during an OSHA investigation into an employee’s death.
In October 2012, OSHA investigated Extrudex Aluminum Inc. in Ohio after employee John Tomlin, 21, suffered fatal injuries when a rack containing hot aluminum parts being removed from an oven tipped over and pinned him. A second employee, age 19, suffered severe burns and was hospitalized for several weeks.
Federal investigators say nearly three years before the incident, Carder sent an email with concerns he had about the safety of the rack system in the company’s walk-in oven which is used to treat aluminum extrusions.
The indictment says Love and Carder exchanged emails about the racks’ safety.
Not long before Tomlin’s death, another Extrudex employee sent emails to Love about the racks, noting that they were “freezing up” and coming off their rollers. The emails expressed concern someone could get hurt.
OSHA requested the emails as part of its investigation. The indictment says Carder and Love only turned in two emails.
Prosecutors say Carder and Love persuaded employees to draft statements recanting previous emails about the racks’ safety, in some cases by suggesting their jobs might be in jeopardy.
The indictment charges Carder and Love with one count each of:
- conspiracy to obstruct justice
- obstruction of justice, and
- obstruction of proceedings.
Love also faces one count of making false statements to law enforcement.
Carder and Love pleaded not guilty to the charges and are free on bond.
OSHA issued two willful and ten serious violations to Extrudex for a total of $175,000 in fines. In a formal settlement, Extrudex agreed to pay $112,000 for one willful and ten serious violations.
Ever wonder what elevates an OSHA investigation to include criminal charges against the company or its managers? This case shows one of the most common reasons: allegations of lying to OSHA.
“Misleading federal investigators and intimidating employees will not be tolerated,” said Acting OSHA administrator Loren Sweatt about this case.