OSHA Issues $497,000 Penalty in Guarding Fatality Case

According to OSHA, the conveyor in which the employee was caught was not guarded, and the shredder was not locked out prior to workers entering the pit.

OSHA has issued seven willful violations and one serious safety violation against Behr Iron & Steel's recycling plant in South Beloit, Ill., following a worker's death, the agency announced Sept. 4.

The victim was a 37-year-old Hispanic immigrant. He was seriously injured after his arm was caught in a conveyor belt at the scrap metal shredding and sorting facility on March 10, and at least three other workers "were exposed to dangerous, unguarded machines during cleaning operations," according to OSHA.

"A wife and two little girls lost their husband, father, and livelihood because Behr Iron & Steel knowingly exposed this worker to highly dangerous equipment with no safeguards," said Assistant Secretary Dr. David Michaels. "For this family, the American dream is now a nightmare. Behr Iron & Steel needs to be held accountable for its history of failing to protect their workforce."

According to OSHA, this worker was hired as a permanent employee in October 2013, after working under a temp-to-hire program though a staffing agency. Five of the employees working in the shredder and sorting process were temporary workers. "Behr Iron & Steel has contracts with both Premier Employee Solutions LLC’s location in Beloit, Wisconsin, and QPS Employment Group, headquartered in Brookfield, Wisconsin, to operate a temp-to-hire program that offers workers permanent positions after completion of a successful 90-day trial period. The workers are supervised and trained by Behr Iron & Steel," according to OSHA. "Workers entered the shredder discharge pit through a 2 1/2 by 3 1/2 foot opening to perform their daily cleaning activities. Those activities involved shoveling metal scrap material that had accumulated in the pit onto a takeaway conveyor system. This conveyor was not guarded and the shredder was not locked out prior to the workers entering the pit."

"Management was aware that the shredder was not being locked out and that workers were accessing the pit with the conveyors running. Unfortunately, Behr Iron & Steel continued the practice of allowing the conveyor to run because it increased efficiency," said Nick Walters, OSHA's regional administrator in Chicago. "OSHA's investigation found that safety training at the plant was woefully inefficient. The company failed to develop and implement required safety procedures at the facility, including permit-required confined space entry and hazardous energy control, despite being previously cited by OSHA for similar conditions at other locations."

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