Crushing Accident, Other Hazards Lead to $153,500 in Fines for Forge Manufacturer

Nov. 11, 2003
A North Grafton, Mass., forge manufacturer won't be able to walk away from crushing, machine guarding and electrical hazards that left one employee with crushed feet.

OSHA has issued $153,500 in fines to Wyman Gordon Co., which was cited for a total of 25 alleged willful, repeat and serious violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. The citations and fines resulted from an inspection prompted by a May 5 accident in which the operator of a large metal-cutting bandsaw had both feet crushed by a 9,000 pound metal billet that tipped over as he was attempting to move it into the saw.

"Employers have an obligation to provide safe working conditions for their workers," said U.S. Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao. "In this case, the company failed to protect workers and is facing a significant fine of $153,500, primarily for failure to maintain equipment in safe operating condition."

OSHA's inspection found that the saw's feed conveyor had been broken for more than a year, forcing workers to feed billets into it in an unsafe manner, and that the company had ignored workers' calls to fix it. As a result, OSHA issued a willful citation to Wyman Gordon for failing to maintain the equipment in safe operating condition and proposed a fine of $70,000, the largest allowed under law. OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and regulations.

Four repeat citations, carrying $45,000 in proposed fines, were issued to Wyman Gordon for unguarded open-sided floors; unguarded points of operation on machinery; unguarded live electrical parts; and the use of power cords that were damaged or lacked strain relief. OSHA issues repeat citations when an employer has previously been cited for substantially similar hazards and those citations have become final. In this case, OSHA had cited Wyman Gordon in 2001 and 2003 for similar hazards at its Groton, Conn., and Houston plants.

An additional $38,500 in fines were proposed for 20 serious citations addressing such hazards as unmarked exits; insufficient aisle clearance; defective fork trucks; unguarded tanks and floor holes; an uninspected fire suppression system; no bumpers on a crane; damaged slings; excess levels of nickel and nuisance dust; and various machine guarding and electrical safety deficiencies. OSHA defines a serious violation as one in which there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result, and the employer knew, or should have known, of the hazard.

Wyman-Gordon has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to either elect to comply with them, to request and participate in an informal conference with the OSHA area director or to contest them before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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