Alabama Sawmill Faces Heavy Fines After Second Fatal Incident in Three Years

Alabama Sawmill Faces Heavy Fines After Second Fatal Incident in Three Years

OSHA has deemed Phenix Lumber Co. a “severe violator” since 2020.

OSHA has proposed nearly $2.5 million in penalties against MDLG Inc., doing business as Phenix Lumber Co., following a fatal incident at their Phenix City, Alabama, facility. 

According to a release dated Feb. 22, the August 2023 incident marked the second employee fatality at the sawmill in three years. In this case, a 67-year-old sawmill supervisor—who had been working for the company for 20 years—died after being caught in machinery while attempting to unclog a woodchipper. 

The ensuing OSHA investigation revealed the tragedy could have been prevented if Phenix Lumber Co. had adhered to federal safety regulations. The agency issued citations for 22 willful violations, one repeat violation and five serious violations, amounting to $2,471,683 in proposed penalties. 

Inspectors identified multiple safety failures, including inadequate energy control procedures, lack of lockout/tagout devices during maintenance, insufficient training on energy control, unguarded machinery, absence of fall protection, and non-compliance with forklift and fire extinguisher safety standards.

“Phenix Lumber’s willful disregard for the well-being of their employees leaves another family to grieve the loss of their loved one. This must stop,” OSHA Regional Administrator Kurt Petermeyer in Atlanta said in a statement. “This worksite has become all too familiar to OSHA. Phenix and its owners have a legal responsibility to follow federal safety laws that are meant to prevent the exact hazards that cost this employee’s life.”

Phenix Lumber Co. was added to OSHA’s Severe Violators Enforcement Program following the previous fatality in 2020. The company has faced four inspections in the last five years, resulting in multiple citations for willful and serious violations. Now Phenix Lumber Co. has 15 business days from the receipt of the citations to comply, request a conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings.

About the Author

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

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