OSHA cited Durango-Georgia Paper Co. and proposed penalties totaling $158,500 for safety violations found during inspection of an accident at the company''s St. Mary, Ga., plant.
According to Luis Santiago, OSHA''s Savannah area director, his office received a complaint after a worker''s hand was crushed by the rollers of the machine he was cleaning.
The inspection resulted in two willful citations with penalties of $140,000 for exposing employees to unguarded paper machine rollers and requiring them to clean the rollers while they were moving.
An additional $18,500 penalty is proposed for four serious safety violations including failure to provide guardrails for two catwalks above the paper machines; failure to remove accumulated trash and debris on the catwalks; failure to guard belts and pulleys in various areas of the machines, and exposing employees to uncovered hot water and steam pipes.
"Modifications made to the paper machine in 1998 included removal of the machine''s guard," said Santiago. "All that time, the maintenance superintendent and other employees raised concerns with upper management about the hazard created by the missing guard."
Santiago continued, "OSHA has particular concern when employees call management''s attention to safety hazards and they are ignored. In this case, employees, a supervisor and an outside consultant altered managers to the danger, but their advice went unheeded."
"This company had a lockout/tagout program, designed to render machinery inoperable during maintenance and repair, but employees were instructed to disregard the procedures. As a result, and employee was pulled into the rollers and seriously injured," said Santiago.
According to Santiago, the Durango-Georgia Paper Co. recently acquired the former Gilman Paper mill but production and operations managers had not changed.
"Heavy costs in human suffering as well as financial resources can be avoided when employers work with employees to create and maintain a safe workplace," said Santiago.
Durango-Georgia Paper, a subsidiary of Mexico-based Corporation Durango, has approximately 3,000 employees, with about 1,200 at this site.
by Virginia Sutcliffe