Georgia Sawmill Faces OSHA Penalties After Worker

Georgia Sawmill Faces OSHA Penalties After Worker's Fatal Injury

The December 2023 incident resulted in $267,327 in proposed penalties.

Thompson Hardwoods Inc. in Hazlehurst, Georgia, is facing $267,327 in proposed penalties following an OSHA investigation into the fatal injuries of a 24-year-old employee. 

According to a recent release, the agency found the sawmill failed to adhere to federal safety regulations, which could have prevented the incident. On December 18, 2023, the young worker sustained serious injuries while attempting to clear a log jam in a woodchipper, which activated unexpectedly. Despite co-workers' efforts and transport to a hospital, the injuries proved fatal.

OSHA’s investigation revealed that Thompson Hardwoods did not follow proper hazardous energy control procedures, which are crucial to preventing caught-in and struck-by hazards. This failure resulted in the company being cited for one willful violation. 

“We learned that Thompson Hardwoods added new equipment to increase production but did not mitigate potential hazards before allowing workers to service and maintain the new equipment,” OSHA Acting Area Director Audrey Windham in Savannah, Georgia, said in a statement. “Workers handling any machinery may be seriously or fatally injured when all sources of energy are not removed. Sadly, the company’s failures leave a family and a community to grieve a terrible, preventable loss.”

Additionally, Thompson Hardwoods—wholly owned by Delaware-based Beasley-Johnson Holdings Inc.—was cited for a repeat violation for not applying lockout/tagout devices to isolate all energy sources. OSHA had previously cited the employer for this same violation in 2022 when it operated as Beasley Forest Products Inc.

The investigation also resulted in two serious violations for failing to train or re-train employees on effective energy control procedures and for not enclosing the chain and sprocket on the shape chipper’s outfeed. Another citation was issued for an other-than-serious violation regarding the failure to maintain worker training records for lockout/tagout procedures.

About the Author

Robert Yaniz Jr. is the Content Editor of Occupational Health & Safety.

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