Fatal Crushing at Ala. Plant Leads to $120,600 Fine

OSHA's Birmingham Area Office initiated an inspection Sept. 12 in response to the fatality. The willful violation is failing to install guards to prevent access to the rotating and moving parts of a pre-plate boring machine used to drill holes into railroad ties.

OSHA has cited Stella-Jones Corp., a Montreal-based manufacturer of railroad ties, with 16 safety violations, including one willful, following the crushing death of a worker who was caught in a machine at the company's facility in Warrior, Ala. Proposed penalties for the citations total $120,600.

OSHA's Birmingham Area Office initiated an inspection Sept. 12 in response to the fatality. The willful violation is failing to install guards to prevent access to the rotating and moving parts of a pre-plate boring machine used to drill holes into railroad ties.

"Management failed to install the protections designed by the machine's manufacturer to prevent entrapment," said Roberto Sanchez, OSHA's area director in Birmingham. "This incident could have been avoided if the company had followed OSHA standards and the machine manufacturer's specifications."

Twelve serious violations involve failing to cover openings in the conveyor where employees could step into the machinery, provide machine guards on a conveyor or saw, conduct inspections of energy control procedures, develop lockout/tagout procedures to prevent unplanned energizing of the pre-plate machine when it was being serviced, mark permit-required confined spaces, evaluate the ability to respond to a rescue if needed, and provide railings on a platform so workers were not exposed to fall hazards. The violations also include electrical deficiencies such as a receptacle lacking a cover plate, wiring, and equipment in the treatment plant that were not approved for wet locations, and electrical cords lacking strain relief.

Three other-than-serious violations include failing to mark exits, using damaged electrical cords, and using a flexible cord instead of fixed wiring.

Due to the willful violation and the nature of the hazards, OSHA has placed Stella-Jones in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which mandates targeted follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with the law.

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