Tommy Eden, Attorney
The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited KyKenKee Inc. in Vance, Ala for 15 safety and health violations after a worker was killed in December 2010 when a log fell 13 feet from a debarker conveyor, striking him in the head.
OSHA cited the lumber mill for one willful safety violation related to the incident for failing to fence the area to prevent access and post warning signs. Employees interviewed indicated that logs rolling off the conveyor were an ongoing hazard, but the company had chosen not to address the problem. 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.
Ten serious safety and health violations include allowing employees to use stairs that lacked standard rails, using platforms that lacked standard rails; allowing a portable fire extinguisher to be blocked by materials; allowing employees to work on a floor that was cracked and uneven; using light switch receptacles that lacked cover plates; not having machine guards on equipment; not guarding sprockets and chains on conveyors; exposing employees to noise hazards; and failing to develop lockout/tagout procedures to prevent unexpected startups of the machinery when workers serviced equipment. Additionally, a 2-inch diameter shaft on a piece of equipment projected 6 inches and was not guarded by nonrotating caps or safety sleeves. 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.
Four other-than-serious violations include not recording a 2010 injury in the required OSHA log; having a poorly maintained, dirty bathroom with trash on the floor; not posting a copy of the noise standard in the workplace; and not conducting a noise monitoring program for those employees exposed to noise exceeding 85 decibels. Another-than-serious violation is one that has a direct relationship to job safety and health, but probably would not cause death or serious physical harm.
Penalties for the citations total $121,400. The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
Common Sense Counsel: It is advised that you have a comprehensive safety audit conducted ASAP. The next time OSHA “comes to help you” the cost of being in the wrong just went up.
Tommy Eden is a resident of Auburn, an attorney with the local office of Capell & Howard, P.C. and a member of the ABA Section of Labor and Employment Law and serves on the Board of Directors for the East Alabama SHRM Chapter. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 334-501-1540.