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February 26, 2024
Alabama sawmill facing $2.5 million OSHA fine for fatality

MDLG Inc., a Phenix City, Alabama, sawmill, faces $2,471,683 in Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) fines following a worker’s death, the agency announced February 22.

A 67-year-old sawmill supervisor at MDLG, operating as Phenix Lumber Co., had climbed on top of an auger to access a difficult-to-reach area to unclog a woodchipper. The employee was caught in the machinery and fatally injured after the machine started while the employee was on top of the auger.

As a result of the fatal incident, OSHA cited Phenix Lumber Co. and its owners, John Menza Dudley Jr. and Leslie Elizabeth Dudley, with 22 willful violations, 1 repeat violation, and 5 serious violations.
Agency investigators found the employer failed to:

  • Ensure employees used energy control procedures to prevent the unexpected start-up of machines while performing maintenance and servicing activities, such as clearing jams. 
  • Ensure the use of lockout/tagout devices on machinery when performing maintenance.
  • Provide training to employees on the purpose and function of an energy control (lockout/tagout) program, as well as ensure they have the knowledge and skills required for the safe application of energy control measures. 
  • Maintain guarding on machines that posed amputation hazards to employees. 
  • Require fall protection to be used in work areas above 4 feet. 
  • Require employees operating a forklift to wear a seatbelt. 
  • Maintain fire extinguishers in a fully charged and operable condition. 
  • Ensure an electrical disconnect was located in the direct line of sight of the equipment being locked out.

OSHA’s powered industrial trucks, lockout/tagout, and machine guarding standards are among the agency’s most frequently cited standards. Last fall, OSHA announced the powered industrial trucks standard (29 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) §1910.178) was its fifth most cited standard, cited 2,561 times in fiscal year (FY) 2023. The lockout/tagout standard (§1910.147) was the sixth most cited, cited 2,554 times, and the machine guarding standard (§1910.212) was the tenth most cited, cited 1,644 times in FY 2023.

According to OSHA, it inspected Phenix Lumber Co. 4 times in the past 5 years, including citing the company with 4 willful and 10 serious violations after the investigation of another fatality in 2020. As a result, the agency added the employer to its Severe Violators Enforcement Program (SVEP), a program for employers that endanger workers by committing willful, repeat, or failure-to-abate violations that could lead to fatalities or catastrophic injuries.

“Phenix Lumber’s willful disregard for the well-being of their employees leaves another family to grieve the loss of their loved one. This must stop,” Kurt Petermeyer, OSHA’s Region 4 administrator, said in an agency statement. “This worksite has become all too familiar to OSHA. Phenix and its owners have a legal responsibility to follow federal safety laws that are meant to prevent the exact hazards that cost this employee’s life.”

Auto parts maker facing $182K OSHA fine

Aludyne Columbus LLC, a Michigan auto parts manufacturer, faces $182,344 in OSHA penalties for violations at its Columbus, Georgia, facility, OSHA announced February 22.

Six days after opening a complaint inspection at the facility, federal investigators learned that a 41-year-old maintenance technician at the site endured severe injuries from an electrical transformer explosion and opened a second investigation.

OSHA cited Aludyne Columbus with 22 serious and 3 other-than-serious violations. Agency investigators found that the employer:

  • Failed to require employees to don appropriately certified electrical suits while changing out electrical components in a high-voltage energized area; 
  • Allowed workers to use non-insulated tools within approximately 12 inches of energized power lines in a high-voltage energized area;
  • Exposed workers to an airborne concentration of respirable silica up to 15 times above the permissible time-weighted average; 
  • Failed to provide National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health-approved respirators to employees who were exposed to silicosis hazards; 
  • Didn’t provide fit testing to workers who were required to wear respirators while exposed to crystalline silica;
  • Failed to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) such as goggles and gloves to workers handling chemicals; and 
  • Didn’t keep an emergency eyewash station free from debris and ready for immediate use.

“Aludyne Columbus LLC’s failure to prioritize employee safety and health nearly cost a worker their life and allowed employees to be overexposed to silica well above the permissible exposure limit,” Jeffery Stawowy, OSHA’s Atlanta-West area office director, said in a statement.

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