A Georgia work injury that occurred last year when a fire broke out at a manufacturing plant in Winterville has resulted in a citation from the Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OSHA), which asserts the Japanese-based manufacturer violated health and safety protocol.
The agency has proposed penalties totaling $145,000 for one willful, 18 serious and one other-than-serious health and safety violations that reportedly resulted in a Georgia worker suffering burns on 80 percent of his body. Investigators say the 33-year-old maintenance worker was the victim of the indifference to safety displayed by his auto parts manufacturer employer in September 2015.
The severity of the worker’s injury has resulted in an intensive and long-term recovery process. He sustained third-degree burns on most of his upper body. The worker was reportedly operating a dust collector at the time of the incident.
OSHA’s investigation revealed the company knew that this was a serious risk to workers because there had been four fires involving that same dust collection system before this one occurred. Even so, they continued to let workers operate the system, didn’t warn them of a danger and didn’t correct the underlying problem.
As a representative of OSHA’s Atlanta office said in a written statement, “Out-of-sight, out-of-mind is not an acceptable strategy for fixing workplace hazards.”
It’s not clear whether any workers were injured in the previous fires, but we do know this worker had to be airlifted from the work site to a nearby hospital for treatment.
The company, which employs more than 150 workers, is one of the top manufacturers of plastic and metal auto bearing retainers in the U.S. Among the health and safety issues cited by OSHA:
- Company failed to train employees on the hazards of combustible dust;
- Employer failed to train and inspect workers for specific procedures to prevent machinery from starting up during maintenance and servicing;
- Employer did not provide a workplace that was free of hazards that were knowable and recognizable;
- Company did not evaluate the performance of powered industrial truck operators once every three years;
- Company did not create specific written procedures for equipment, including dust collectors, wet blasters, pressers, etc.;
- Workers were never instructed on the purpose and use of the energy control procedure;
- Employees exposed to excessive noise levels;
- Employer didn’t ensure each label of hazardous chemicals was labeled, tagged or marked with information;
- A number of machines were not properly guarded to protect the operator and other workers in the area from hazards that are caused by rotating and moving parts, flying chips and sparks;
- Chain and sprockets were unguarded on a number of conveyors.
The willful violation of failure to protect operator and other workers from machinery hazards caused by lack of guarding was met with a proposed $6,300 fine just for that violation alone.
Of course, not all of these played a central role in the serious workplace burn injury suffered by the Georgia worker in September. However, collectively they illustrate a pattern of non-compliance with safety rules. That means other workers could be at serious risk for additional workplace injuries if these issues aren’t promptly addressed.
For information on Atlanta work injury compensation, contact J. Franklin Burns, P.C., at 1-404-303-7770.