US Department of Labor proposes $264K in fines for Montana manufacturer, staffing agency for serious, willful violations following finger amputation
BILLINGS, MT – When OSHA inspectors arrived at Western Bee Supply Inc. in Polson to investigate a recent incident that resulted in a partial finger amputation, they found a workplace with unguarded saw blades, rotating machinery, belts, pulleys and chains. Machine operators were cleaning saw blades and other machinery without locking out and tagging out equipment to prevent sudden starts, as required. A review of recent work logs by inspectors found the amputation wasn’t the only serious injury to occur on the machine involved, just the first one that had been reported to them.
“One worker suffered a serious injury and another required hospitalization in an incident unreported previously at Western Bee. Both incidents were completely preventable had the company simply installed proper safeguards,” said OSHA Area Director Art Hazen in Billing, Montana. “Employers are required to provide workers with a safe and healthful place of employment.”
OSHA cited Western Bee and its staffing contractor, LC Staffing Service, for a range of serious and willful violations, and assessed a collective $264,478 in proposed penalties. OSHA cited Western Bee for failing to install guards on various equipment; control hazardous energy; test workers for hearing damage due to noise overexposure; and report the amputation within 24 hours as required.
The agency cited LC Staffing for failing to train employees in lockout and tagout procedures, and fully power down a machine before maintenance and cleaning to prevent sudden starts and movement of machine parts. Staffing agencies have a duty to train and protect the temporary workers assigned to workplaces.
After an informal conference, the employer, Western Bee Supplies, Inc., signed an informal settlement agreement accepting all citations as issued with a minor penalty reduction. Alternative Staffing Corp., LC Staffing Service, also signed, accepted the issued citations, and settled at the informal level with the same minor penalty reduction.
OSHA’s machine guarding page provides resources that address protecting workers from unguarded machinery, including “Safeguarding Equipment and Protecting Workers from Amputations.”
Based in Ronan, Western Bee Supplies Inc. has manufactured and supplied bee-keeping equipment for more than 53 years. The company employs approximately 49 employees. Since 1985, LC Staffing Service in Kalispell has provided temporary employees to businesses as one of Montana’s largest independently owned employment services providing staffing services to Western Bee Supply since 2006.
The companies have 15 business days from receipt of citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
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 ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. Learn more about OSHA.