OSHA Cites Texas Company Again Following Amputation Injury to Worker

March 26, 2012
Hobbs Bonded Fibers Inc. of Waco, Texas, has had several run-ins with OSHA because of its alleged failure to provide machine guarding, create specific lockout/tagout procedures and provide training for employees in those procedures. Most recently, OSHA alleges the company’s safety shortcomings have resulted in the amputation of a worker’s arm at its Waco, Texas, facility.

OSHA cited the company this month for one willful and five serious safety violations following an investigation that was initiated on Sept. 20 after an employee's arm was pulled into the rollers of an operating textile machine while the employee was cleaning fibrous material out from under the machine. The incident resulted in an amputation of the arm. Proposed fines total $104,000.

"Hobbs Bonded Fibers failed to ensure that proper lockout and tagout procedures for hazardous energy sources were followed," said Jack Rector, OSHA's area director in Fort Worth. "It is the employer's responsibility to safeguard the workplace for employees. No worker should have to suffer what this worker did in an effort to earn a paycheck."

The willful violation is failing to ensure that shaft ends were guarded and keyways covered, and machine guarding was provided for rotating belts, pulleys, chains and sprockets to prevent contact with pinch points. A willful violation is one committed with intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.

The serious violations include failing to ensure an exit route met height/width requirements and was not located in a high-hazard area, provide specific lockout/tagout procedures to verify the control of energy and train workers in relevant lockout/tagout procedures when their job assignments were changed. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

In June 2011, OSHA issued 29 serious violations to Hobbs Bonded Fibers with penalties of $161,100 for exposing workers to a variety of workplace hazards, including: failing to develop and implement a respiratory program; provide training for employees entering confined spaces where an oxygen deficiency may exist; develop a plan to avoid employee exposure to bloodborne pathogens; provide an area for employees to wash their eyes; ensure that compressed oxygen and acetylene gas cylinders were stored separately; provide hazard communication training to employees working with hazardous and toxic chemicals; adequately guard rotating belts, pulleys, chains and sprockets from pinch points and at the point of operation; and provide covers on junction, outlet and transformer boxes. The company has contested these citations and penalties.

In August 2005, OSHA proposed $255,050 in penalties, alleging the company exposed workers to possible amputations and other serious injuries.

OSHA cited the company with four willful, 26 serious and two other-than-serious violations following a comprehensive safety and health inspection that began Feb. 10, 2005. The inspection was conducted under OSHA’s Site-Specific Targeting plan, which targets companies with high workplace injury and illness rates.

The willful citations were issued for failing to provide adequate guards on several different machines to protect workers from amputations and other serious injuries. Hobbs also failed to adequately maintain workplace injury and illness records. The serious violations included exposing workers to fall, electrical and additional machine guarding hazards; lack of periodic inspections of equipment; lack of effective programs for respiratory protection and permit-required confined space entry; and lack of personal protective equipment, such as eye, face, and hand protection from corrosive chemicals.

Hobbs has 15 working days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference with Rector or contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of EHS Today, create an account today!