Mill Fined for Worker Fatality

Friday, October 17, 2014 @ 05:10 PM gHale

A Graham Lumber Co. employee cleaning up sawdust and bark around an unguarded machine died after he became entangled in a conveyor belt at the company’s lumber mill in Fulton, MS.

The worker, employed at the company for less than two weeks, was cleaning and became caught in the unguarded conveyor when the incident occurred, said officials at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

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Graham Lumber, a subsidiary of American Hardwood Industries, has headquarters in Waynesboro, VA, and produces hardwood lumber for the flooring industry. The company employs 26 workers at the Fulton mill and 400 employees nationwide.

OSHA cited Graham Lumber for one willful and one serious safety violation following the April fatality and issued fines of $75,610.

“This tragic incident could have been prevented if the employer ensured that the safety guard, which had been removed, was replaced immediately. This illustrates how important it is for a company to maintain safeguards even during nonproduction work activity because it directly affects the health and safety of all workers,” said Eugene Stewart, director of OSHA’s Jackson Area Office.

The willful citation was for the employer’s failure to ensure machine conveyor belts, sprocket chains and rollers ended up guarded to prevent employees from getting caught in them. 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.

OSHA issued the serious citation for failure to provide a safety guard on a rotating shaft end on a sawdust collector conveyor belt, which exposed workers to caught-in and amputation hazards. 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.

OSHA previously inspected the facility in 2011 after an employee ended up electrocuted, and the agency issued 15 citations for safety violations. Additionally, the Selma, Tennessee, and the Fulton facilities experienced fatalities in 2014 within 90 days of each other. Both incidents ended up related to workers suffering injuries in unguarded machinery.

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