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News Release

OSHA News Release: [03/16/2015]
Contact Name: Scott Allen or Rhonda Burke
Phone Number: (312) 353-6976 or x4807
Email: or
Release Number: 15-0377-CHI

Bowling center worker dies after his hooded sweatshirt catches in pinsetter

Northwest Lanes receives 8 serious violations related to machine operation

FAIRFIELD, Ohio — A 53-year-old bowling alley worker was asphyxiated when his hooded sweatshirt was caught in a pinsetter at Northwest Lanes in Fairfield because the machine's operating parts were improperly exposed, an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration found.

The fatality occurred on Nov. 5, 2014, while the man was retrieving a bowling ball. Investigators determined that pinsetters mechanisms at Northwest Lanes lacked adequate guards to prevent employees from hazardous exposure to moving parts. As a result, OSHA issued eight serious safety violations to the alley's owner.

"A wife, children and a grandchild lost a loved one in a preventable workplace tragedy," said Bill Wilkerson, OSHA's area director in Cincinnati. "Northwest Lanes had identified issues with its 1970s-era equipment, but it did not ensure workers were protected from dangerous parts. Those in the recreation industry must remember unsafe operation of machines used to entertain people can put a worker's life at risk."

OSHA inspectors found Northwest Lanes lacked a program for preventing unintentional operation of machinery during servicing and maintenance including jams, a process known as lockout/tagout. The agency noted that equipment, including pulleys, belts and shafts, lacked guards to prevent workers from coming near operating parts. Employees also were exposed to energized electrical components.

OSHA has proposed penalties of $45,500 for the recreational center, which employs 26 workers.

The company contested the findings which may go before the independent Occupational Safety and 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 Cincinnati Area Office at 513-841-4132.

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. For more information, visit