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November 13, 2013
Machine guarding: Employer draws $200,000 in fines, willful citations in temp worker's death; Where it went wrong

David Eleidjian was mixing industrial adhesive at a plant in Bay Point, California, on April 15, 2013, when he became entangled in the mixer’s rotating shaft. The machine pulled him in, crushing his legs.

Once he was freed, Eleidjian was taken to a nearby hospital. His legs were amputated, but to no avail—the 26-year-old temporary worker died of his injuries later that day.

In the wake of the accident, Cal/OSHA cited the employer for multiple serious and willful violations and proposed $200,825 in fines.

What went wrong

The company was cited for six serious violations, two of which were also classified as willful, for failing to identify and safeguard against the hazards of working near the mixer.

The willful violations were issued for:

  • Guarding violations. The employer allegedly did not properly set up and maintain operation guards for the mixer.
  • IIPP violations. The employer allegedly did not follow its own Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP) provisions regarding the identification and correction of serious hazards posed by the mixer.

The serious citations included:

  • Failing to implement simple safety precautions. The company allegedly failed to ensure that sleeves on employee coveralls fit tightly so clothing would not get caught in machinery.

Each violation the company was cited for is common and readily correctible. Here’s how you can avoid falling into the same traps:

  • Guard moving parts of machinery. Under Cal/OSHA standards, machine guards must be appropriate for the hazard involved, secured in place, and free from hazardous projections on their surface. In this case, the employer did not adequately guard a shaft, meaning that the guard likely wasn’t considered “appropriate for the hazard involved.” Moving parts of machinery that require guarding are typically found in three places:

    • The point of operation. This is where work is performed on the material, such as cutting, shaping, boring, or forming of stock.
    • The power transmission apparatus. This may include flywheels, pulleys, belts, connecting rods, couplings, cams, spindles, chains, cranks, gears, and any other moving parts that transmit energy to the point of operation.
    • Other moving parts. This includes feed mechanisms and any auxiliary parts of the machine that move while the machine is working.

  • Make sure your IIPP is a living, working document. The IIPP standard requires you to include in your IIPP “procedures for identifying and evaluating workplace hazards.” This is an ongoing process, not something you do once and then set aside. Any of the following methods are valid, as long as you actually use them:

    • Regular workplace inspections. You must conduct inspections when you initially establish your IIPP; whenever a new substance, process, procedure, or piece of equipment is introduced into your workplace that represents a new safety and health hazard; and whenever you become aware of a new or previously unrecognized hazard.
    • Safety and health surveys. Although not required by the IIPP standard, these surveys can be an extremely valuable part of your hazard identification process. Unlike an inspection, which tends to focus more on compliance with existing safe work rules, a survey is a far more thorough evaluation of the workplace and includes discussions of safety and health issues with employees.
    • Labor/management safety and health committees. The IIPP does not require employers to establish labor/management safety and health committees, but Cal/OSHA strongly encourages employers to consider this option. These committees can identify hazards by reviewing inspection records, accident investigations, and reports of hazardous conditions. They can then make recommendations based on their review.

    The IIPP standard also requires you to address hazards once they are identified. There’s no excuse for continuing to expose workers to a potentially deadly hazard once you know about it.

  • Don’t miss the basics. Address deadly hazards that are easily solved. Clothing hazards are always an issue around rotating machinery but cost the employer virtually nothing to address—a safety dress code should do it. Workers should wear fitted clothing and avoid long, loose hair, necklaces and rings, and any other item that could become entangled.
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