News Release

US Department of Labor cites Georgia sawmill for willfully exposing workers to hazards after investigation of 24-year-old employee’s fatal injuries

Thompson Hardwoods Inc. faces $267K in proposed penalties

SAVANNAH, GA – The U.S. Department of Labor has determined a Hazlehurst sawmill could have prevented a 24-year-old employee from suffering fatal injuries while working with a woodchipper if the company had ensured that federal safety regulations were followed.

The department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigated the Dec. 18, 2023, incident at Thompson Hardwoods Inc. and found that the young worker suffered serious injuries when the equipment activated while trying to clear a log jam. After co-workers attempted to render aid, emergency personnel transported the injured employee to a nearby hospital, but the worker’s injuries proved fatal. 

Following its investigation, OSHA cited Thompson Hardwoods with one willful violation for failing to document and follow hazardous energy control procedures to prevent caught-in and struck-by hazards on machines serviced by employees. 

“We learned that Thompson Hardwoods added new equipment to increase production but did not mitigate potential hazards before allowing workers to service and maintain the new equipment,” explained OSHA Acting Area Director Audrey Windham in Savannah, Georgia. “Workers handling any machinery may be seriously or fatally injured when all sources of energy are not removed. Sadly, the company’s failures leave a family and a community to grieve a terrible, preventable loss.”

The agency also cited the employer with a repeat violation for failing to apply lockout/tagout devices to isolate all energy sources. OSHA previously cited the employer for this violation in a 2022 inspection while it operated as Beasley Forest Products Inc

In addition, OSHA cited the employer for two serious violations for exposing workers to caught-in and struck-by hazards by not training or re-training employees engaged in lockout/tagout procedures on effective energy control and for failing to enclose the chain and sprocket on the shape chipper’s outfeed. The agency also cited Thompson Hardwoods for failing to maintain worker training records for lockout/tagout procedures, an other-than-serious violation.

OSHA proposed $267,327 in penalties.

Thompson Hardwoods Inc. is a Georgia corporation wholly owned by Beasley­Johnson Holdings Inc. based in Delaware. 

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

Occupational Safety & Health Administration
July 2, 2024
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Media Contact: Erika Ruthman
Media Contact: Eric R. Lucero
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