Safety Alert: Packing Machine Amputation

Thursday, June 13, 2013 @ 02:06 PM gHale

Gilman Cheese Corp. faces $126,700 in fines for 10 safety violations after a worker had two fingers amputated by an unguarded cheese packing and labeling machine at the Gilman, WI, factory, said officials at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

A January inspection was result of a referral and OSHA later found another worker suffered a similar amputation in January 2012.

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“This tragedy could have been prevented if Gilman Cheese Corp. ensured adequate machine guarding and lockout/tagout procedures,” said Mark Hysell, OSHA’s area director in Eau Claire. “Too often, compromised safety procedures have tragic consequences.”

Two willful violations involve failing to develop and train workers on machine-specific lockout procedures to prevent unexpected start-up and lockout machinery during servicing and maintenance, and to provide adequate machine guarding. 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.

Six serious violations involve inadequate guarding on a bench grinder and a portable grinder; lack of adequate emergency eyewash stations for workers handling corrosives; operating powered industrial vehicles without adequate training and inspections; using a flexible cord as permanent wiring; lack of an electrical safety program; and failing to provide training on bloodborne pathogens to those who cleaned equipment following the amputation. 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.

Two other-than-serious violations include obstructing a means of egress and using compressed air greater than 30 pounds per square inch for cleaning. 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.

Because of the hazards and the willful violations cited, Gilman Cheese Corp. is now on OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which mandates targeted follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with the law. Under the program, OSHA may inspect any of the employer’s facilities or job sites.

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