EHS Administration, Enforcement and Inspection, Injuries and Illness

Plastics Maker Pleads Guilty in Worker’s Death

An Alabama plastics manufacturing company has pleaded guilty in federal court to violations of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) safety requirements that led to a worker’s death, the agency announced January 24.

ABC Polymer Industries LLC agreed to pay $242,928 in restitution, plus funeral expenses, to the worker’s estate. The company also must pay $167,928 in penalties and serve 2 years of probation.

A 45-year-old worker died at ABC Polymer’s Helena, Alabama, facility in August 2017 when she was pulled into the moving rollers of a plastics extrusion machine. OSHA cited the company for a willful violation of the agency’s machine guarding standard and a violation of its lockout/tagout (control of hazardous energy) standard.

The company paid $155,338 in 2018 for penalties assessed by OSHA after the agency’s investigation into the incident.

Terms of the 2023 plea agreement include participating in an enhanced compliance and auditing program.

“Let the resolution of this case serve 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,” Tremelle Howard, the Department of Labor’s Atlanta regional solicitor, said in an agency statement.

“Failing to install and maintain protective guarding on machinery causes far too many serious injuries and deaths,” Kurt Petermeyer, OSHA’s Atlanta regional administrator, said in a statement.

Lumber supplier facing $218,759 in OSHA fines for worker’s death

A Carrollton, Texas, lumber supplier and retailer is facing $218,759 in OSHA penalties after an 18-year-old worker at a Rison, Arkansas, store was struck and killed by a forklift.

OSHA cited Hixson Lumber Company for one willful and four serious violations, alleging the company failed to train the teen worker; left keys inside unsecured forklifts; and did not make sure the forklift used by the teenager had a proper parking brake, working horn, and backup alarm, as required.

The employer allowed the teen to operate a forklift even though the individual was not certified to do so, according to OSHA. Inspectors learned the worker had dropped the forklift’s key after parking the vehicle. The teenager, who had been assigned to pull and count lumber, was unsupervised at the time of the incident. The teen worker was searching for the key when the forklift rolled and struck the worker. Investigators determined that the forklift’s original parking brake had been removed and replaced with a makeshift brake that failed to hold the machine in place.

“A family, his friends, and co-workers are left to mourn a young man whose life was cut short because his employer failed to follow safety requirements that would have prevented this tragedy,” Kia McCullough, OSHA’s Little Rock, Arkansas, area director, said in an agency statement. “Hixson Lumber Company did not meet its legal responsibility to ensure that hazardous equipment was maintained, and that only trained and certified workers are allowed operate forklifts.”

According to the agency, the Carrollton-based lumber company, founded in 1959, has about 750 workers at 19 sawmills and retail locations in 8 states, including Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee, and Texas.