The U.S. Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited V & B International Inc. and proposed penalties totaling $139,800 for failing to protect workers from safety hazards at the company’s Port Gibson, Mississippi, saw mill.
OSHA’s investigation of a Nov. 16 fatal accident determined that two employees were assigned to change knives in a chipper machine at the beginning of each work day. On the day of the accident, noticing that a heater had not come on, a third worker turned on what he thought was its power switch. Instead, the unlabeled and unsecured switch started the chipper. One of the workers assigned to change the blades was killed instantly.
“This tragic accident would have been avoided if the company had an effective lockout-tagout program,” said Clyde Payne, OSHA’s Jackson area director. “This OSHA-required program ensures that machinery is inoperable during maintenance or repair. All power sources must be labeled and employees must be trained to follow written procedures when shutting down machinery.”
OSHA issued two willful citations, with proposed penalties totaling $112,000, for failing to have specific procedures for shutting down, isolating, and securing machinery to control energy and for failing to have locks, tags or other devices available to ensure power switches could not be activated.
The company also received 11 serious citations with proposed penalties totaling $25,800. Alleged safety violations directly related to the fatal accident were the employer’s failure to provide employees with lockout-tagout training and exposing them to unexpected start-up of equipment. Other safety hazards observed during the inspection included unguarded machinery parts and defective electrical plugs.
An additional citation and penalty of $2,000 were issued for failing to properly ground an extension cord. The company had reportedly been cited previously for a similar violation.
V & B International has 15 days to contest the OSHA citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. The work site was inspected by OSHA’s Jackson area office.
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