JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — In August 2013, a 32-year-old machine helper entered a large wire mesh manufacturing machine to retrieve a fallen metal bar, and he was struck and killed by a part that feeds the wire into the machine's welding area. The light curtain that would have automatically turned the machine off before he entered the danger zone had been disabled. Proper operation of the machine's guards, a basic Occupational Safety and Health Administration requirement, would have saved his life.
Today, following its investigation of the incident and inspection of the worksite, OSHA cited Wire Mesh Sales LLC for eight per-instance willful violations as well as a number of other repeat, serious and other-than-serious citations. Proposed penalties total $697,700. The company has been put into OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which focuses resources on inspecting employers who have demonstrated indifference to their legal obligations by committing willful, repeated or failure-to-abate violations.
"This was a preventable and senseless tragedy," said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez. "When employers are serious about safety, everyone benefits. Wire Mesh Sales LLC failed to properly implement OSHA safety regulations, and a worker paid the ultimate price."
The per-instance willful citations include the employer's failure to guard the wire mesh manufacturing machine as well as three other large machines that make wire mesh or straighten and test the wire. Additionally, the company failed to assure that four machines, including the one involved in the incident, were shut down and hazardous sources of energy were locked or tagged out prior to employees' entering and servicing the equipment where no guards protected them from harm. The 56 employees, most of who were not native English speakers and who worked 12-hour shifts seven days per week, were exposed to serious injury or death because of these failures. OSHA proposes $560,000 in fines for the eight per-instance willful violations.
A willful violation is one committed with intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.
A total of 22 serious violations allege a variety of conditions, including: a factory floor cluttered with broken pallets creating a hazard that could lead to workers tripping and falling into moving machine parts; an electrical outlet left on the ground wrapped in tape that posed a shock hazard; and a bathroom with a sink that had been clogged for months with maggots swimming in standing water. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known. Fines for the serious violations total $126,700.
Wire Mesh was also cited for a repeat violation for failing to administer an effective hearing conservation program. The company violated this standard at its Oglesby, Ill., facility in 2012. A repeat violation exists when an employer previously has been cited for the same or similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule or order at any facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years. There are $11,000 in proposed fines for the repeat violation.
Finally, the company was cited for four other-than-serious safety and health violations for failing to: mark exits, assure crane operation safety and develop an effective respirator program for employees required to wear respirators. An other-than-serious violation is one that has a direct relationship to job safety and health, but probably would not cause death or serious injury.
View all of the citations in this case. Wire Mesh has more than 200 employees nationwide, and recorded $60 million in revenue in 2012.
The employer has 15 business days from receipt of the citation and proposed penalties to comply, request a conference with OSHA's area director or contest the findings before the Occupational Safety & Health Review Commission.
To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance; file a complaint or report workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency's Jacksonville Area Office at 904-232-2895.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to assure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.