OSHA Fines Wayne Sawmill $200K for Work Safety Violations

Federal regulators have slapped a Wayne County sawmill with a fine in excess of $200,000, accusing the owners of intentionally and repeatedly violating numerous federal workplace safety laws.sawdust

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) alleges that Wayne Lumber & Mulch Inc. has engaged violations that include:

  • 3 willful
  • 9 repeat
  • 12 serious
  • 3 other-than-serious

For a total of 27 violations, federal authorities are proposing a fine that tops $214,600. This recommendation comes just two years after OSHA cited the same company for 40 violations back in March 2014. At that time, OSHA initially recommended a fine of $82,000, but ultimately agreed to a settlement for exactly half that, $41,000. Now, however, OSHA officials say it’s clear the company didn’t take those earlier violations seriously. 

Some of the problems discovered in the most recent inspection:

  • Failure to ensure there were proper guards on a chop saw;
  • Failure to provide standard railing and handrails on elevated platforms;
  • Failure to establish a hazard communication training plan;
  • Repeatedly exposing workers to electrical dangers;
  • Not having proper safety guards around the machinery;
  • Failure to have a system in place to remove all the sawdust and shavings – which are combustible;
  • Exposing workers to crushing and rollover dangers during machinery operation without proper seat belts;
  • Not providing adequate fall protection for workers;
  • Failure to ensure workers have appropriate eye protection;
  • Allowing chainsaws to operate absent a manufacturer-approved chain catch.

The fact that many of these same violations were noted in both inspections, OSHA officials said, makes it clear the company didn’t take to heart the findings of the first investigation – findings that indicated the risk of serious work-related injury and death was imminent.

“This employer is willing to jeopardize the safety of its workers,” OSHA’s Charleston Area Office Director Prentice Cline said in a press release.

This was further evidenced by the fact a worker last year suffered the amputation of a finger as a result of the failure to ensure proper machine guarding. If nothing changes at the plant, the risk of injury – or worse – is high, Cline said.

A company spokesperson told a reporter with the Charleston Gazette-Mail that they planned a meeting with OSHA officials soon.

Having solid workplace safety procedures in place is imperative in the wood products industry, which is known to be one of the most dangerous occupations in the U.S. The equipment used poses a plethora of hazards, especially when the machines aren’t used correctly or aren’t used with the appropriate safeguards.

Sawmills in particularly are one of the most dangerous places to work, according to OSHA’s Sawmills eTools. There is the risk of huge weights that can fall, roll or slide. The equipment can also be very dangerous, and the risk of lacerated or severed fingers is a real concern, as is potential blindness if proper eye wear isn’t used. Chemical exposure and wood dust hazards also put workers at risk of respiratory and skin diseases. These dangers can be exacerbated by conditions like:

  • Rough/ unstable terrain;
  • Inclement weather;
  • Isolated work sites (health facilities not easily accessible)

It should be noted that all workers have the right to a safe workplace. If you are injured at work, we can help.

If you have been injured at work, contact the Lee Law Offices at 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:

Wayne sawmill fined more than $200,000 by OSHA, Sept. 19, 2016, By Ken Ward Jr., Charleston Gazette-Mail

More Blog Entries:

Oklahoma Supreme Court: Companies Don’t Get to Make the Rules for Injured Workers, Sept. 17, 2016, Greenville Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog

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