Today’s post comes from guest author Kit Case, from Causey Law Firm.
The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries announced that a Klickitat County lumber company was fined nearly a quarter of a million dollars after worker gets caught in machinery.
The SDS Lumber Company of Bingen, Wash., has been fined $244,600 for 69 workplace safety and health violations after a worker was seriously injured in March. The Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) cited the employer for one willful, 54 serious and 14 general violations of safety and health rules. A willful violation is cited when L&I alleges that the violation was committed with intentional disregard, plain indifference, or when employers substitute their own judgment for safety and health regulations.
L&I determined that a lack of training and proper safety procedures left the lumber mill worker with severe injuries when his arms became entangled in machinery while trying to clear a jam. L&I began an investigation on March 9m 2013 after being notified that the worker had been hospitalized. By law, all employers are required to report to L&I within eight hours anytime a worker is hospitalized or dies due to work-related causes.
“This incident shows the importance of Washington’s hospitalization reporting rule,” said Anne Soiza, assistant director for L&I’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health. “In most other states, a hospitalization involving only one worker does not have to be reported and the serious hazards could continue unabated. In our state, we are able to send inspectors right away to ensure the safety of the other workers.”
The investigation found that managers and supervisors were aware that workers routinely bypassed machinery safety guards to try and clear jams while the machinery was still in motion.
Consequently, the company was cited the maximum penalty allowed by law, $70,000, for a willful violation. Additionally, because the willful violation was associated with a worker’s serious injuries, the company will now be part of the Severe Violator Enforcement Program, an OSHA program that monitors severe safety violators.
The injury incident prompted comprehensive safety and health inspections of the entire plant. In addition to the machinery violations, the department found serious hazards related to chemicals, hazardous and flammable substances, bloodborne pathogens, confined work spaces, electrical and fall protection. Many of the violations were corrected during the inspections.
The company has appealed the citations.