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Amputation of Worker's Fingers Leads to OSHA Fine

A Franklin Park, Ill., company's failure to protect employees from the hazards of mechanical power presses resulted in the amputation of three fingers of a worker's left hand, causing the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to issue a fine of $295,000.

An inspection was initiated at Sloan Valve Co. on Dec. 20, 2001 after OSHA received a safety referral about an employee who sustained an amputation while using a mechanical power press. Sloan Valve Co. manufactures flush valves for the plumbing industry. OSHA issued citations alleging four willful and three serious safety and health violations.

"Mechanical power presses are one of the most hazardous machines for workers," said Diane Turek, OSHA area director of the Chicago North Area Office in Des Plaines. "Many of the workers at this facility communicated best in Spanish. We were able to speak with them in their native language, which enabled the OSHA inspection team to understand exactly what took place at the workplace."

OSHA issued willful violations to the company for failure to protect employees from point of operation hazards; failure to provide guards using sensors for all areas of entry for mechanical power presses; failure to require the concurrent use of both hands when activating mechanical power presses; failure to ensure that operational modes on mechanical power press could be supervised by the company; and failure to ensure that mechanical power presses required prior action before operating continuously.

The alleged serious violations included failing to establish periodic inspections of mechanical power presses; failing to test mechanical power presses at least weekly to ensure that necessary maintenance and repairs were performed before presses were operated; and failing to train and supervise mechanical press operators in safety methods before starting operations.

OSHA defines a willful violation as one that is committed with an intentional disregard for or plain indifference to the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. OSHA defines a serious violation as one in which there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazardous condition and the employer knew or should have known of the hazard.

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