Recently, the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) reported that in Region 4 – which covers North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee and Kentucky – there have been a series of violations at lumber mills that jeopardize worker safety. The agency has levied fines against employers that fail to ensure employees have a safe work environment – something to which they are entitled.
The first involves a lumber mill in Alabama, which despite repeated warnings, OSHA says continues to expose workers to the risk of amputations, falls and other fatal workplace accidents. Following an inspection in October, the agency cited the mill for two repeated and seven serious safety and health violations. An inspection of the facility was initiated after a worker was injured and had to be hospitalized in an incident that was unrelated.
Of specific interest to OSHA was prevention of amputations – something that falls under the agency’s initiative for it’s National Emphasis Program on Amputations. Back in February, the Alabama facility was cited for things like exposing workers to falls, using unguarded belts and failing to guard machinery and pulleys. The company failed to fix many of those problems by the time October rolled around. Inspectors also observed workers not being provided with protective eyewear, improper storage of compressed gas, no policies to prevent machines from starting up during inspections and numerous electric shock hazards.
The OSHA spokesman in Mobile, which imposed a $43,100 fine, expressed disappointment, saying worker safety must be made a priority.
In a separate case, OSHA identified another repeat offender in a Georgia lumber mill, cited for two serious safety violations. The facility had previously been cited repeatedly for offenses like:
- Not providing fall protection for workers who walk on top of machinery;
- Exposing workers to electrical hazards;
- Exposing workers to unguarded machine parts;
- Exposing workers to struck-by hazards.
Proposed penalties for these offenses near $60,000. As one OSHA spokesperson said, “There is no reason we should be finding these hazards again.”
This kind of government intervention is important because employees injured on-the-job can only collect workers’ compensation benefits – they can’t also sue their employer. It’s a trade-off in that workers don’t have to prove employer negligence or wait long periods of time to be compensated for medical bills and lost wages. However, the overall payouts tend to be quite a bit less. Fines like this create incentive to promote safer work practices.
Saw mill work is already known to be inherently dangerous. Woodworking operations often involve massive weighs and falling, rolling or sliding logs. Potential for injury can be exacerbated when there is rough, unstable or uneven terrain, inclement weather or work sites that are isolated without immediate access to health care.
However, many incidents are preventable with proper safeguards and adequate training. Failure to follow best practices and protocol can result in:
- Severed fingers
- Electric Shock
In addition, certain chemicals and wood finishing products may result in skin and respiratory diseases.
If you have suffered a work-related sawmill injury, contact our offices today to learn more about how we can help secure benefits on your behalf.
If you have been injured at work, contact the Lee Law Offices at 800-887-1965.
Georgia Lumber Mill Repeatedly Exposes Workers to Falls, Electrocution and Other Workplace Safety Hazards, Oct. 20, 2015, OSHA News Release
More Blog Entries:
Chandler v. Atlantic Scrap and Processing – Attendant Care Compensation in North Carolina, Dec. 1, 2015, Greensboro Work Injury Lawyer Blog