Administrative law judge affirms citations; Alabama automotive parts supplier to pay $1.3M in penalties after 20-year-old worker’s 2016 death
CUSSETA, AL – The independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission has affirmed citations issued by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration to a global auto parts supplier after the 2016 death of a 20-year-old machine operator at an Alabama manufacturing facility.
The decision comes after Joon LLC – operating as AJIN USA – contested OSHA citations after an investigation of how an employee at its Cusseta facility suffered fatal crushing injuries in June 2016 in a robotic machine. OSHA inspectors learned that the machine operator and three co-workers entered a robotic cell on the assembly line to clear a sensor fault when a robot inside the cell restarted abruptly, crushing a young woman inside.
Its inspection led OSHA to cite AJIN USA for 51 safety violations, including 48 willful violations. On Feb. 10, 2023, an administrative law judge upheld the majority of the violations that OSHA issued. AJIN USA will pay more than $1.3 million in penalties to address the violations.
“No violation or penalty can recover a life lost needlessly. This case’s resolution serves as a stark reminder to all employers that the U.S. Department of Labor will exhaust all available resources and actions to hold them accountable when they fail to meet federal requirements to protect the safety and health of their employees,” said U.S. Department of Labor Regional Solicitor Tremelle Howard in Atlanta.
In a September 2020 criminal case, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama, Eastern Division, ordered AJIN USA to pay a $500,000 fine and $1 million in restitution to the deceased woman’s estate after the company pled guilty to a charge of a willful violation of an OSHA standard.
“Failing to lock out equipment causes far too many serious injuries and deaths,” explained OSHA Regional Administrator Kurt Petermeyer in Atlanta. “In this case, a young woman lost her life because her employer took shortcuts to minimize downtime and maintain production.”
Based in Korea, AJIN USA is a global supplier of parts to Hyundai and Kia with manufacturing plants in the U.S., South Korea, China and Vietnam. At the time of the 2016 incident, the manufacturer employed approximately 700 workers at the Cusseta facility.
Visit OSHA’s website for information on developing a workplace safety and health program. Employers can also contact the agency for information about OSHA’s compliance assistance resources and for free help on complying with OSHA standards.