Failure to Maintain Safety Devices, Procedures Leads to $136,350 Fine

An amputation at a Watertown, Wisc. manufacturer of lawn mower blades and other products was the result of the company's careless approach to worker safety, says Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao.

Fisher Barton Inc. is facing $136,350 in OSHA fines following a February 2003 accident in which an employee suffered the amputation of his lower left arm while reaching into potentially activated machinery to retrieve a piece of scrap metal.

An OSHA investigation into the accident revealed that the company failed to properly repair a hot trimming press used in a steel forge to trim hot metal after a safety device designed to prevent accidental energizing of the trimming press was broken and removed in the spring of 2002. The safety device was never replaced. OSHA also charged the company with failing to provide adequate training in lockout/tagout procedures, a lack of machine guarding, and failure to maintain forge shop equipment in a safe operating condition as well as not locking out, stopping or blocking the operation of the hot trimming press during servicing or maintenance.

"Fisher Barton Inc., was fully aware of this terrible hazard, but failed to take appropriate steps to protect workers," said Chao. "OSHA's first commitment is to protect workers from such tragedies. We stand ready to assist employers of all sizes to make their workplace safe, but we will fully enforce standards when employers take a careless approach to workplace safety and health."

A division of Accurate Specialties Inc., Waukesha, Wis., Fisher Barton employs 165 workers at the Watertown facility. Fisher Barton has two plants in Watertown and one in Fountain Inn, South Carolina. Two earlier inspections of the Watertown plants in 1995 and 1993 resulted in OSHA violations for machine guarding, lack of personal protective equipment and lockout/tagout issues.

The company has 15 working days from receipt of the citations to appeal before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, pay the fine or seek a meeting with the OSHA area director.

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