Recently, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced that an Ohio-based manufacturer failed to protect workers from multiple machine hazards. These included not providing proper machine guarding and adequate lockout/tagout procedures, among other violations. In fact, the manufacturer’s history of workplace safety violations dates back to 2017. During that period, the employer has been previously cited by OSHA in 2017, 2020, and 2022. In July 2023, OSHA announced its final rule requiring employers in specific high-hazard industries to report injury and illness data electronically.
Background of the Violations
The latest OSHA inspection at the Ohio facility occurred in response to a reported finger amputation in February 2023. In the incident report, a 56-year-old machine operator suffered the amputation after their gloved finger was caught in a chain and sprocket system that did not have required machine guards in place. The incident mirrored several other cases of severe amputations, totaling 14 incidents since 2017. That year, OSHA added the manufacturer to its Severe Violator Enforcement Program. After the latest inspection, OSHA cited the employer for three willful violations, two repeated violations, three serious, and two other-than-serious violations. The citations state that the employer exposed workers to several machine hazards by failing to provide the following:
- Adequate lockout/tagout procedures;
- Proper employee safety training; and
- Required machine guarding.
Employer Duty to Protect Against Specific Machine Hazards
When employees come into contact with moving machine parts, it can cause severe or fatal injuries. Injuries can include crushed fingers and hands, amputations, burns, or blindness. Therefore, employers must eliminate or sufficiently control these machine hazards along with other workplace hazards. Fulfilling these obligations puts employers in compliance with the General Duty Clause of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. Specific to employers that have moving machinery in the workplace, the following OSHA standards apply:
- Under OSHA’s Machinery and Machine Guarding Standard 1910.212, employers must provide one or more methods of machine guarding to protect employees and operators from hazards associated with rotating parts, flying chips and sparks, point of operation, and nip points. Guarding methods may include barrier guards, two-hand tripping devices, and electronic safety devices.
- Furthermore, OSHA’s Control of Hazardous Energy (Lockout/Tagout) Standard 1910.147requires employers to implement a program that uses lockout or tagout devices to disable machines or equipment. These devices are meant to prevent unexpected energization, start-up, or release of stored energy and prevent employee injury or death.
In combination, these two standards help ensure that employees are kept separate from the hazardous moving parts of machinery during operation. Additionally, they are kept safe from accidental start-up during maintenance.
OSHA Penalties for the Machine Safety Violations
In 2022, OSHA proposed $1.2 million in penalties against the employer for similar violations. The employer is currently contesting those penalties. As a result of the latest citation, the employer now faces an additional $545,853 in penalties. The employer has 15 business days after receiving the citations and penalties to comply, or contest the findings. Additionally, they may request an informal conference. Meanwhile, OSHA has opened another investigation at the Ohio facility after receiving an injury report that a separate worker suffered chemical burns.