OSHA cited Amrep Inc. and proposed fines totaling $140,000 following an inspection at the company''s Marietta, Ga., plant where a Jan. 25 accident cost an employee both legs.
OSHA''s inspection began as a result of a referral from local police responding to the accident. The injured employee had been using his feet to tamp down cardboard inside a compactor''s receiving chamber while the machine was running.
The employee''s feet became caught in the cardboard and he was pinned in the machine. Unable to remove his legs, both were severed above the knee as the machine''s horizontal ram pushed into the chamber to flatten the cardboard.
OSHA fined Amrep $70,000 each for two willful violations related to the accident.
One willful citation was issued for failure to use lockout procedures to render the compactor inoperable when employees entered the ram chamber to tamp or unjam cardboard.
The second dealt with the absence of machine guarding to protect workers from amputation hazards while feeding cardboard into the compactor''s hopper.
According to Susan Johnston, OSHA''s Atlanta-West area director, the agency issues a willful citation in cases where there appears to be an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the Occupational Safety and Health Act and regulations.
Johnston explained that the company had a lockout procedure for the compactor but did not enforce its use even though employees routinely got into the activated compactor to crush cardboard.
OSHA found that the company also failed to take action to guard against injuries while feeding cardboard into the compactor''s hopper.
To allow for ground level operation of the machine, usually fed from above, the employer modified its hopper by having one of the sides removed enabling employees to reach into the compactor''s chamber.
Although a two-hand control was installed requiring the operator to hold the control buttons to energize the machine, the protection this provided the operator did not extend to other employees who could still reach into the compactor while it was running.
"In addition," Johnston explained, "workers bypassed the two-hand control by taping down the control buttons, allowing them to both feed cardboard into the compactor and enter the chamber to pack down cardboard without stopping the machine."
The area director added that the employer knew about the practice because "on more than one occasion, an outside maintenance vendor found the control buttons taped down and warned the company about the hazard and its potential for OSHA fines."
OSHA has inspected Amrep 14 times since 1982. Prior to this inspection, the most recent ones in June 1999 and July 1997 involved accidents, one of which resulted in a fatality.
In both cases, OSHA issued willful citations. In the 1999 incident, an employee was severely burned when a flash fire occurred in a mixing tank.
Another flash fire started in 1997 while employees were using flammable liquid to clean a sticky floor. Two workers were burned, one of whom died about a month later.
Amrep employs 400 workers, 170 of whom work at the Marietta plant manufacturing aerosols such as brake cleaner, adhesive glues, and glass and carpet cleaners.
The company has 15 working days to contest OSHA''s citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
by Virginia Sutcliffe