SVEP Candidate Hit with $1.9 Million in OSHA Penalties

The agency said it has cited Phenix Lumber Co. 77 times since 2007 and wants to include it in the Severe Violators Enforcement Program.

Phenix Lumber, an Alabama company, must know OSHA's local personnel very well. The company has been given 13 citations by OSHA, mainly for alleged amputation hazards and lockout/tagout violations, with $1,939,000 in penalties. OSHA said in its news release that it has cited Phenix Lumber 77 times since 2007.

Twenty-four willful violations were included that allege the company failed to shut down and lock out machines before employees were required to clear jams and clean them. "The employer also failed to train 11 employees who performed this work on the hazards and how to shut down and lock out the machinery so they could perform their tasks safely," according to the release, which quoted both Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and OSHA Assistant Secretary Dr. David Michaels.

"Phenix Lumber continues to put workers at risk by choosing not to implement safety measures that would prevent serious injuries to their employees," said Solis. "Employers have a responsibility to keep their workers safe and healthy. One worker injured on the job is one too many."

"This situation reflects a systemic problem with the way this company approaches safety and demonstrates an egregious disregard for workers' safety and health," Michaels said.

OSHA began the inspection Dec. 15, 2010, in response to a complaint that employees working in the planer mill were exposed to amputation hazards. A second complaint was lodged two months later, saying an employee had suffered a partial finger amputation while clearing a machine that had not been locked out. "At the opening of an inspection following the second complaint, the compliance officer learned of another employee who had just suffered a severe hand injury while working on unguarded machinery. Phenix Lumber had been cited numerous times during the past four years for allowing employees to work on unguarded machinery while it was operating," according to the news release.

SVEP began in 2010. It is focused on employers who commit willful, repeat, or failure-to-abate violations in connection with a fatality or catastrophe, operations that expose workers to severe hazards or releases of highly hazardous chemicals. These are instance-by-instance enforcement cases, and the employers face mandatory follow-up inspections and corporate-wide agreements, where applicable.

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