A furniture store has been ordered to pay nearly $60,000 in fines by federal regulators after discovery of numerous safety violations following a workplace amputation at a Georgia plant late last year.
According to a news release by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), a division of the U.S. Department of Labor, the employer was cited for one willful and four serious safety violations after the worker was hospitalized for amputation of a finger.
Workplace amputations are a serious hazard affecting a significant number of workers in Georgia. They are some of the most serious and debilitating work injuries one can endure, and they involve a wide range of equipment and activities. Most often, OSHA reports, they happen when workers are operating an unguarded or inadequately safeguarded power press, power press brakes, conveyors, printing presses, roll-forming and roll-bending machines, food slicers, meat grinders, meat-cutting band saws, drill presses, milling machines, shears, grinders and slitters.
It’s not just normal operation of these machines that can be dangerous, but also prepping, threading, cleaning, setting up, maintaining and clearing jams.
There are numerous OSHA standards that cover amputation hazards at work, including:
- 29 CFR Park 1910 Subparts O and P – machinery and machine guarding
- 29 CFR 1926 Supart 1 – cover hand tools and power tools
OSHA asserts employers are responsible for recognizing, identifying, managing and controling risks of amputations that are commonly found in the workplace. Amputations are 100 percent preventable, and they start with the employer engaging workers in the best work practices, training and administrative controls. Machine safeguarding is also imperative. Yet, it’s one of the more commonly-cited OSHA violations in the workplace.
In the most recent case, OSHA launched an investigation after discovering an employee at the LaGrange furniture store had been the victim of a workplace injury that required hospitalization. The 26-year-old, employed as a furniture builder, was using a table saw in order to cut strips of wood when his right hand made contact with the saw blade. As a result, the tip of the worker’s middle finger was amputated and he also incurred severe cuts to his thumb and index finger.
When OSHA inspected the saw, they discovered the safety guards on the saw were removed. The agency cited the company for willful exposure of workers to a saw blade that was unguarded.
There were also a number of serious safety violations by the firm, including not ensuring drill presses had proper guards and were rightly affixed to the floor. There were also hazards where workers were exposed to fire hazards and electric shock risk due to wiring that was improper and unsafely installed.
An OSHA official from the Atlanta office commented that this incident is a reminder of what can happen when people disregard OSHA standards. This was an entirely preventable workplace accident she said, adding that additional injuries are almost certain if the company doesn’t immediately install the safety guards on its machinery.
For violating these important safety rules, the agency is suggesting a fine of $58,520. The company, with nearly 50 workers, makes wooden household furniture. It has 15 business days to respond.
Meanwhile, OSHA has launched a National Emphasis Program on Amputations, to drive home the dangers and risk factors.
For information on Atlanta work injury compensation, contact J. Franklin Burns, P.C., at 1-404-303-7770.