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Fine upheld for safety lapses leading to hand amputation

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A U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission judge has affirmed numerous citations against American Recycling & Manufacturing Co. Inc. and ordered it to pay $154,800 in penalties for a workplace injury that resulted in a hand amputation, OSHA said.

An employee of the Rochester, New York-based company lost his left hand in December 2012 when a co-worker stepped on a foot pedal that activated a pop-up table saw, OSHA said Tuesday in a statement. An agency inspection found that both the saw and the pedal were not shielded to prevent accidental contact or activation.

OSHA also identified numerous other hazards and cited the company in May 2013 for willful and serious violations — a finding contested by the company in an October 2014 hearing before Administrative Law Judge Dennis Phillips in Washington. The company was cited for 18 items during two inspections by the agency, with 16 characterized as serious violations and two as willful violations, according to court documents.

In affirming the citations, Judge Phillips found that the employer had received numerous complaints from employees about the hazards of the saw and the foot pedal, but failed to take corrective action. In addition, caution signs posted on the saw were in English, but several employees, including the injured worker, were not fluent in English and could not understand the warnings, the agency said in its statement.

“This decision upholds our findings that conditions at this workplace endangered employees and that two of those violations — those involving the saw and the foot pedal — contributed to the preventable loss of an employee's hand,” Robert Kulick, OSHA's regional administrator in New York, said in the statement. “It's up to this employer to take and maintain effective corrective action so that these hazards are eliminated and future injuries are prevented.”

The judge vacated one citation after finding that the agency did not identify any employee who was exposed to the alleged hazard, which involved the use of an extension cord to supply power to the control pedestal of a pallet stacker, according to court documents.

A company official could not immediately be reached for comment.