A worker at Huntington Beach manufacturing company lost three fingers in January 2017 while manually loading products into a punch press. As a result, Cal/OSHA has issued seven citations against the metal and die stamping company, including one classified as willful-serious, carrying $142,715 in proposed penalties.
Cal/OSHA alleges that the company failed to take appropriate precautions to prevent amputations, including:
Failing to safeguard the point of operation. Proper machine guarding is the first and most effective line of defense against amputations; under General Industry Safety Orders (GISO) 4206(a), employers are required to provide and ensure the use of properly adjusted machine guards for power-operated presses. The company allegedly not only failed to do so but also failed to do so knowingly—leading to a willful-serious citation carrying $70,000 in proposed penalties.
Failing to develop and implement lockout/tagout procedures as required by the lockout/tagout standard (GISO 3314). Equipment-specific, written energy control procedures are required for all equipment that poses a hazard of unexpected hazardous energization. Employees must follow those procedures whenever they perform cleaning, repairing, servicing, setting up, or adjusting of prime movers, machinery, and equipment. For allegedly failing to do so, the company was cited for a serious violation.
Failing to train workers. The company allegedly violated the training requirements of the injury and illness prevention program (IIPP) standard found in GISO Section 3203, the lockout/tagout standard (GISO 3314), and the power-operated press standard at GISO 4203(a) and (b).
Cal/OSHA alleges that the company first failed to identify amputation hazards in the workplace and then failed to train workers in those hazards as required by the IIPP standard. The lockout/tagout standard requires training for both authorized employees (those who utilize lockout/tagout procedures) and affected employees (those who work with or around machinery subject to lockout/tagout procedures); Cal/OSHA alleges that the company failed to train affected employees and classified that violation as serious. Employers are required by the power-operated press standard to ensure the continuing competence of employees who inspect and maintain power-operated presses and to train press operators in safe operating procedures; these, too, were classified as a serious violation.
Failing to inspect power presses, conduct weekly performance checks, and document those inspections, as required by the power-operated presses rule, GISO 4202(a), (b), and (c). That rule requires employers to “establish and follow a program of periodic and regular inspections of power operated presses to ensure that all parts, auxiliary equipment, and safeguards are in a safe operating condition and adjustment” and to maintain a certification record of inspections, tests, and maintenance work. Weekly performance checks must document the “safe operating condition of the clutch/brake mechanism, anti-repeat feature and single stroke control.” The alleged failure to conduct weekly performance checks was classified as a serious violation.
Failing to provide adequate supervision. Workers who operate power-operated presses must be properly supervised, as required by GISO 4203(b). In addition to failing to train its operator properly, the company allegedly failed to ensure through proper supervision that the worker followed safe operating procedures—a serious violation.
Takeaways for All Employers
In many cases, serious injuries result from the failure of not one, but multiple safeguards. In this case, proper machine guarding alone might have prevented this worker’s injury. Had the guarding failed, proper hazard identification and training could have enabled either the worker or his supervisor to identify and correct the situation. Proper inspection and testing procedures could have done the same. Don’t let the absence of even one properly implemented safeguard lead to injuries and steep fines in your workplace.