A Hazlehurst, Georgia, sawmill could have prevented a 24-year-old employee from suffering fatal injuries while working with a woodchipper if the company followed federal safety regulations, said officials at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

OSHA inspectors investigated the December 18 incident at Thompson Hardwoods Inc. and found the young worker suffered serious injuries when the equipment activated while trying to clear a log jam. After co-workers attempted to render aid, emergency personnel transported the injured employee to a nearby hospital, but the worker’s injuries proved fatal.

Following its investigation, OSHA cited Thompson Hardwoods with one willful violation for failing to document and follow hazardous energy control procedures to prevent caught-in and struck-by hazards on machines serviced by employees.

“We learned that Thompson Hardwoods added new equipment to increase production but did not mitigate potential hazards before allowing workers to service and maintain the new equipment,” said OSHA Acting Area Director Audrey Windham in Savannah, Georgia. “Workers handling any machinery may be seriously or fatally injured when all sources of energy are not removed. Sadly, the company’s failures leave a family and a community to grieve a terrible, preventable loss.”

The agency also cited the employer with a repeat violation for failing to apply lockout/tagout devices to isolate all energy sources. OSHA previously cited the employer for this violation in a 2022 inspection while it operated as Beasley Forest Products Inc.

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In addition, OSHA cited the employer for two serious violations for exposing workers to caught-in and struck-by hazards by not training or re-training employees engaged in lockout/tagout procedures on effective energy control and for failing to enclose the chain and sprocket on the shape chipper’s outfeed. The agency also cited Thompson Hardwoods for failing to maintain worker training records for lockout/tagout procedures, an other-than-serious violation.

As a result of its investigation, OSHA proposed $267,327 in penalties.

Thompson Hardwoods Inc. is a Georgia corporation wholly owned by Beasley¬Johnson Holdings Inc. based in Delaware.

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