The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited a Georgia-based steel manufacturer for multiple safety violations in the death of a worker who was trapped and crushed in a polishing machine.
AP Specialty Metals, of Alpharetta, GA, faces 13 citations and a $65,900 fine in the death of Jeffrey Thurman, 53, of Cumming, GA, on April 13, OSHA said in a statement Friday (Oct. 22). The agency said the company knew of the workplace hazards before the accident.
Thurman had been working on a machine that polishes heavy-gauge metal when he was pulled into the equipment, authorities said. There were no witnesses, but a co-worker soon noticed and turned off the machine.
Thurman died before rescue workers arrived, authorities said.
‘A Tragic Workplace Accident’
Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Frank Huggins called Thurman’s death “a tragic workplace accident,” local news reports said. “No one knows but him how he got in it, and the consequences were tragic.”
The company’s products include aluminum for transportation equipment, towers, heavy-duty structures, pipe railing, marine applications and railroad cars. It also manufactures stainless steel products for chemical equipment, marine applications and more. Several news reports said the company had been doing business in the state since 2001 under the registration Tad Metals Inc.
The company did not respond to a request Tuesday (Oct. 26) for comment.
‘Placed Production Ahead of Safety’
OSHA issued AP Specialty Metals one willful citation for failing to install machine guards that would prevent employees from being caught up in machinery. OSHA also issued a serious violation for the company’s alleged failure to develop and implement an energy control program that would protect workers from the unexpected release of energy or start-up of machinery.
"Company management had the experience and knowledge to recognize and correct these hazards before the fatality, but they placed production ahead of worker safety, resulting in this tragedy," said Bill Fulcher, director of OSHA's Atlanta-East Area Office.
OSHA issued nine other citations for serious violations, including fall hazards, lack of training on use of industrial trucks, two incidents of exposing workers to flying debris, exposure to unguarded chains and sprockets, misuse of compressed air for cleaning, using damaged parts on electrical equipment, using flexible cords as a substitute for fixed wiring, and dispensing flammable liquid from a drum that was not grounded.
Two other-than-serious citations were issued against the company for allegedly failing to post an annual summary of injuries and illnesses at the facility and for not retaining OSHA logs for 2006 and 2007.
OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health. A serious citation is issued 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. 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.
AP Specialty Metals was given 15 business days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings.