An Illinois metal fabricator and painter is facing $214,830 in federal fines and several major citations following amputation injuries suffered by two workers in eight days.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited T & D Metal Products LLC with four safety violations—three of them willful—after the employees were injured Jan. 10 and Jan. 18 on separate press brakes at the company’s metal stamping facility in Watseka, IL.
"T & D Metal Products failed to ensure machine guarding and safety procedures were in place to protect employees, even after a worker was injured,” said Tom Bielema, OSHA's area director in Peoria.
|T&D Metal’s services include powder coating and painting.|
“This negligence contributed to a second worker being injured on the same type of equipment eight days later. Employers have a responsibility for following established safety practices to ensure equipment has safety guards and workers are provided with adequate training."
“We completely deny these citations,” T&D owner Roger Dittrich said in an interview Wednesday. “This thing came out of the blue.”
Dittrich said T&D “has a great safety record,” despite “these two unfortunate accidents, which should not have happened.” One employee, a man, lost three fingers; another employee, a woman who had worked there 25 years, lost part of a thumb, Dittrich said.
The company has scheduled an informal conference with OSHA for Tuesday (July 19), to discuss the case.
“I don’t have to tell you, it’s tough to operate a manufacturing company in the state of Illinois,” Dittrich said. “They shouldn’t be able to talk about people like that. We’re a rural community of 5,000, and this has gone through it like wildfire.”
Dittrich said that the company had had no lost time injuries in 11 years.
The willful violations include failing to lock out/tag out hazardous energy sources before performing maintenance operations and to have point-of-operation guarding on the press brakes on both days.
A willful violation, which carries exceptionally high penalties, is one committed with intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.
One serious safety violation was cited for failing to use safety blocks when dies were being adjusted and repaired. 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.
Prior to the January inspection, OSHA said it had cited the company for 47 violations since 1988. Dittrich said the actual number was 32, mostly involving terminated employees.
OSHA has placed T & D Metal Products in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which mandates targeted follow-up inspections for what the agency calls “recalcitrant employers that endanger workers by committing willful, repeat or failure-to-abate violations.”
The company reached SVEP status due to its previous violations and the egregious violations cited in the January incidents. A violation is deemed egregious when a company is cited for instance-by-instance violations of the same standard, such as failing to provide machine guarding protection.
Founded in 1951, T&D provides metal fabrication, painting, welding, stamping and other services.