A sawmill in St. Joseph, Missouri, has been heavily fined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for failing to take reasonable steps to prevent workplace injuries. Totaling nearly $200,000, the fines are for a fatal accident at the mill back in March, and for safety violations found in a subsequent investigation.
OSHA Fines St. Joseph Sawmill for Fatal Accident
OSHA conducted an investigation after reports of a St. Joseph sawmill worker falling ten feet from an elevated platform into a grinder chute. The employee had not been tethered while above the chute.
The investigation discovered a laundry list of code violations, and proposed fines for each:
- Electrical hazards from a damaged hoist pendant ($5,691)
- Two holes in the floor—measuring nearly two feet each—were left uncovered and unfixed ($8,536)
- No guardrail around a pit containing a conveyor belt ($9,959)
- There had not even been an assessment as to whether protective equipment was needed for falls ($9,959) or for chemical exposure ($4,268) in the sawmill
- No procedures for disconnecting machines from power sources while maintenance was being performed on them ($9,959)
- Stairs were not equipped with either a toe board or an adequate railing to prevent a 16 foot fall ($9,959)
- Ladders were not up to code ($9,959)
- Electrical outlets were not up to code ($7,114)
- The sprocket wheels and chains that run conveyor belts were left exposed, creating an amputation risk—a repeat offense at the sawmill from a year earlier ($35,570)
- No hearing protection for workers using a bandsaw or stationed directly adjacent to it ($9,959)
- Saws were not equipped with exhaust or collection devices to capture dust that could cause workers to slip and fall near the saw, or cause a fire if ignited ($8,536)
- Wood dust was allowed to accumulate on electrical outlets and light fixtures, posing a serious fire risk ($9,959)
- Bottles of diesel fuel were not labeled, creating a fire risk if they were accidentally used ($4,268)
- Wood dust had accumulated so much in other areas that it was creating a fire and explosion hazard—a repeat offense at the sawmill from an OSHA inspection in 2014 ($49,736)
- There were no crossover platforms for the conveyor belt, preventing quick exits from whole portions of the workplace ($5,691)
Altogether, OSHA’s proposed fines totaled $199,183.
Safe Workplaces and Workers’ Compensation
Needless to say, the more dangerous a workplace is, the more often workers will get hurt in it. In fact, this is not the first time that OSHA has come down hard on this particular sawmill in St. Joseph: Another worker lost a finger in a conveyor belt accident last year.
With such a dangerous workplace, workers are far more likely to get hurt and need workers’ compensation. Unfortunately, when employers are taking so few steps and spending so little money protecting their workers from injuries on the job, the likelihood that they are going to play fair with workers’ compensation is diminished, as well.
St. Joseph Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at the Smith Law Office
The personal injury and workers’ compensation attorneys at the Smith Law Office in St. Joseph represent injured workers and help them get the financial coverage they need. Contact us online or call us at (816) 875-9373.