Enforcement and Inspection, Personnel Safety

OSHA Cites Texas Sawmill, Seeks $389K in Penalties

On February 3, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced it cited a northeast Texas sawmill and pallet manufacturer with 13 safety and health violations following a federal investigation into fatal injuries suffered by an 86-year-old worker.

The agency is seeking $389,706 in proposed penalties.

OSHA cited W.D. Townley and Son Lumber Company Inc. of Henderson, Texas, with one willful, serious and nine serious safety violations, as well as one willful, serious and two serious health violations. The agency opened an inspection on July 28, 2021, after receiving a report that a worker had fallen from a stack of pallets on July 6, 2021, at Townley Lumber.

“Sawmill operations can be hazardous work, but it should not be life-threatening,” Basil Singh, OSHA’s Dallas area director, said in a statement.

“W.D. Townley and Son Lumber Company Inc. showed a complete disregard for their employees’ well-being,” Singh continued. “OSHA will hold employers accountable when they neglect their legal responsibility to provide workers with a safe workplace.”

The agency cited the employer for the two willful, serious violations for failing to use energy control (lockout/tagout) procedures and implement a hearing conservation program. OSHA also issued citations for serious violations for a lack of guardrail systems above dangerous equipment, failing to use eye and face protection, not addressing the hazards from operating powered industrial trucks, and neglecting to notify OSHA within 8 hours of a work-related fatality as required.

OSHA’s eye and face protection (29 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) §1926.102), lockout/tagout (§1910.147), and powered industrial trucks (§1910.178) standards are among the agency’s top 10 most frequently cited standards. It cited 1,452 eye and face protection violations in fiscal year (FY) 2021; 1,698 lockout/tagout violations; and 1,420 powered industrial truck violations.

The powered industrial trucks standard, one of the agency’s materials handling and storage standards (29 CFR 1910 Subpart N), contains equipment and marking requirements for powered industrial trucks and their maintenance and operation, as well as training, refresher training, and operator evaluation requirements. Townley Lumber was cited for failing to ensure operators were competent to operate powered industrial trucks safely through the completion of training and evaluation.

Agency inspectors reported finding untrained employees exposing others to struck-by hazards while operating powered industrial trucks.

OSHA also cited the employer with serious violations of the sawmills industry standard (§1910.265):

  • Inspectors reported finding sheets of metal placed on walkways to cover holes in damaged or displaced floors, as well as stairs that were bent and damaged and in need of repair.
  • The agency also cited the employer for the lack of standard railing and toe boards, exposing employees to fall hazards of more than 4 feet above ground level.
  • A log loader had visible hydraulic leaks from hoses and cylinders, exposing employees to crushed-by and struck-by hazards.
  • Conveyors were not constructed in accordance with the American National Standard for conveyor systems (B20.1-1957), exposing employees to tripping hazards.

The industry consensus safety standard for conveyors (B20.1-1957) is incorporated by reference in OSHA standards.