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November 10, 2023
3M facing $313K OSHA fine following fatality

Manufacturer 3M Company faces $312,518 in Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) fines after an employee at the company’s Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, facility became caught in a machine’s rotating rollers and suffered fatal injuries, OSHA announced November 7.

The agency cited the company with two willful safety violations. The incident followed the company’s assessment of equipment at its United States and Canadian plants in May 2022 after a fatality at a 3M facility in Alexandria, Minnesota, in February 2022, according to OSHA. 

Agency inspectors learned that the employee at the Prairie du Chien facility was helping to set up a plastic extrusion line when they became caught. OSHA determined that 3M violated federal regulations for the control of hazardous energy during setup, servicing, and operation of the machine.

Last month, OSHA announced that the agency’s control of hazardous energy, or lockout/tagout, standard (29 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) §1910.147) was its sixth most frequently cited standard, cited 2,554 times in fiscal year (FY) 2023, which ended September 30.

Agency investigators found that the company failed to use procedures for the control of hazardous energy and didn’t implement energy control application steps when employees set up the production line by threading through powered rollers by hand. They also determined the 3M plant allowed workers to circumvent machine guarding to cut and remove wrapped fibers from rotating powered rollers and to remove fibers from the floor, which exposed them to caught-in hazards.

Maplewood, Minnesota-based 3M is a Fortune 200 company that produces more than 60,000 products, including adhesives, insulation, tapes, and other commercial, consumer, and industrial products, according to OSHA. The company operates 40 production plants with about 34,000 employees in the United States, including about 500 at the Prairie du Chien facility. 

“The tragedy of another employee’s death in Wisconsin is compounded by the fact that the 3M Company completed a corporate-wide review and determined powered rollers were hazards in need of safety improvements,” Bill Donovan, OSHA’s Chicago regional administrator, said in an agency statement.

Florida contractors facing $131K in OSHA fines for trenching violations

OSHA has cited Jacksonville, Florida, contractors KBT Contracting Corp., Aquino Construction, and Darmick after an investigator observed three Aquino Construction employees working at a Middleburg, Florida, worksite in an unprotected trench, about 8 feet (ft) deep, 55 ft long, and 9 ft wide, installing casing around an existing sewer line. The trench lacked shoring or a trench box to prevent cave-ins, according to the agency. 

KBT Contracting faces OSHA penalties totaling $65,182. Aquino Construction and Darmick face $33,261 each in proposed penalties.

The agency cited all three employers with one willful violation each for exposing employees to cave-in hazards by failing to shore the trench or use a protective system such as a trench box. OSHA also cited each employer with a serious violation for placing spoil piles on the leading edge of the trench, exposing workers to struck-by hazards.

“Trenching hazards are well known throughout the construction industry and fatal accidents can occur in the blink of an eye. Supervisors and owners of companies that send workers into trenches while bypassing live-saving precautions show a willful indifference to placing their employees in life-threatening situations,” Scott Tisdale, OSHA’s Jacksonville, Florida, area office director, said in a statement.

OSHA has an ongoing National Emphasis Program (NEP) addressing trenching and excavation hazards. In July 2022, the agency unveiled plans for 1,000 inspections in response to an uptick in trenching and excavation fatalities.

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