Akron, Ohio-based Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company has agreed to pay $1.75 million in penalties and overhaul its health and safety program after four fatalities occurred at its Danville, Va. plant over the course of a year.
Jeanie Strader, Kevin Waid Edmond, Charles “Greg” Cooper and William Scheier were killed at the facility between August 2015 and August 2016. Eleven subsequent investigations discovered numerous violations at the plant, which manufactures aviation and specialty tires.
“USW Local Union 831L is pleased that this process has concluded with a very positive settlement agreement that will benefit all of us working at the Danville Goodyear plant now and in the future,” said Danny Barber, president, USW Local Union 831L in a statement. “While nothing will replace our sister and brothers who were fatally injured, the elements of the settlement agreement between VOSH and Goodyear will greatly improve safety at the Danville Plant.”
The multifaceted agreement lays out a process for addressing workplace hazards such as machine guarding, fall protection, adequate training and forklift safety, all which contributed in some way to the fatalities. In addition, the company has a new manager to oversee changes at the plant, which employs 2,200 workers.
“Goodyear is committed to working in partnership with the Commonwealth of Virginia and the United Steelworkers to continually identify hazards and improve the safety of our Danville plant, with the goal of acceptance in the Commonwealth’s Voluntary Protection Program,” said Greg Kerr, plant manager, Goodyear Danville to the press. “On a personal note, having been recently named Danville’s plant manager, I want to assure the Danville community and all my coworkers that nothing is more important to me or Goodyear than the safety of our associates.”
The agreement also includes a commitment from both Goodyear and United Steelworkers to assist the Danville facility in its membership with the Virginia Voluntary Protection Program (VPP). The company will be able to retain up to $750,000 in penalties for use at the plant to abate hazards identified during the VOSH inspections and to assist with meeting VPP requirements.
Virginia Commissioner C. Ray Davenport says the entire process may take as long as five years, but it does represent a “significant” commitment by Goodyear to improve.
“We were all deeply saddened by the tragic loss of life at the Goodyear Danville Plant and for the families and co-workers involved,” said Davenport in a statement. “I can think of no better tribute to those who lost their lives and those who continue to work at the plant than to take the combined resources and efforts of the department, Goodyear and the United Steelworkers to turn the Goodyear Danville Plant into one of the safest and healthiest places to work in the country.”
Lastly, Goodyear will be required to host three important VPP Best Practices Day training sessions for hundreds of employers from around the state during 2017, 2018 and 2019.
All open cases with the state’s VOSH program will be resolved as a result of the settlement.