Safety Fines for Railroad Tie Maker

Wednesday, March 14, 2012 @ 04:03 PM gHale

Railroad tie maker, Stella-Jones Corp., is facing fines of $120,600 for 16 safety violations, including one willful, following the crushing death of a worker caught in a machine at the company’s facility in Warrior, AL, said officials at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

In response to the fatality, OSHA’s Birmingham Area Office initiated an inspection Sept. 12. The willful violation is failing to install guards to prevent access to the rotating and moving parts of a pre-plate boring machine used to drill holes into railroad ties. A willful violation is one the company commits with intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.

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“Management failed to install the protections designed by the machine’s manufacturer to prevent entrapment,” said Roberto Sanchez, OSHA’s area director in Birmingham. “This incident could have been avoided if the company had followed OSHA standards and the machine manufacturer’s specifications.”

Twelve serious violations involve failing to cover openings in the conveyor where employees could step into the machinery, provide machine guards on a conveyor or saw, conduct inspections of energy control procedures, develop lockout/tagout procedures to prevent unplanned energizing of the pre-plate machine when serviced, mark permit-required confined spaces, evaluate the ability to respond to a rescue if needed and provide railings on a platform so workers did not suffer exposure to fall hazards. The violations also include electrical deficiencies such as a receptacle lacking a cover plate, wiring and equipment in the treatment plant not approved for wet locations, and electrical cords lacking strain relief. 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.

Three other-than-serious violations include failing to mark exits, using damaged electrical cords and using a flexible cord instead of fixed wiring. An other-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.

Due to the willful violation and the nature of the hazards, OSHA placed Stella-Jones in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which mandates targeted follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with the law. The program focuses on recalcitrant employers that endanger workers by committing willful, repeat or failure-to-abate violations.

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