OSHA Finds Sawmill Failed to Remediate Exposed Saw Following a Worker’s Death

Missouri Mats now faces $346,954 in proposed penalties.

A sawmill that was previously the site of a 21-year-old worker’s death due to an exposed saw has not taken steps to correct the issue.

In a release dated July 13, OSHA announced that a follow-up visit to Brashear, Missouri-based Missouri Mats revealed the sawmill operation site hadn’t complied with requirements to address an exposed saw. The equipment was responsible for the death of a young worker, who received fatal injuries after getting caught in the vertical edger blades on January 11, 2023.

An OSHA investigation followed, with investigators issuing Don Gibson—owner of Missouri Mats—a letter requiring changes to protect his employees from amputation hazards. Gibson failed to report to OSHA, as directed, to confirm the changes. In fact, when OSHA officials returned to the site on March 1, 2023, they found the hazardous environment remained.

Without the necessary procedures put in place, the saw which had claimed a worker’s life less than two months earlier remained in the same condition. OSHA placed an imminent danger notice on the equipment, which led Gibson to correct the safety hazard.

"After a young man—new to the job—died after suffering horrific injuries, Don Gibson and the Missouri Mats' management team continued to use the equipment involved in the fatality without taking appropriate steps to eliminate the danger and protect employees,"  OSHA Regional Administrator in Kansas City, Missouri Billie Kizer said in the statement. "Deadly hazards exist in the sawmill and logging industries, and it is essential that Gibson and others in the industry follow federal safety requirements."

In addition, OSHA discovered the management was aware of the unsafe regular use of the machines by sawmill operators, who allow the vertical edger to run even during inspection. Per OSHA, no apparent efforts were made to update this process or provide additional safety training. Investigators also found other major violations, such as minors operating machinery, hazardous equipment running without machine guards and electrical hazards.

OSHA has laid $346,954 in proposed fines on Missouri Mats, encompassing two willful, 53 serious and two other-than-serious violations. The company has 15 business days to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA or contest its findings.

About the Author

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

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