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OSHA cites fiber company after worker suffers serious hand injury

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A Florida manufacturer faces $116,270 in proposed penalties from federal regulators after an employee's hand was mutilated.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Hialeah, Florida-based Southern Fiber Inc. on Dec. 15 for an incident in which a 30-year-old worker's skin was torn from his hand to the wrist after a fiber-processing machine started unexpectedly while he tried to clear a jam caused by mattress foam, according to a news release issued by the agency on Wednesday.

OSHA cited the company for one willful violation for failing to establish safety procedures to prevent machinery from starting up during maintenance and servicing, according to the release.

The agency also issued three repeat citations for failing to provide protective guards on equipment to prevent workers from being hit by or caught between moving machine parts, neglecting to train workers to use fire extinguishers and allowing workers to operate forklifts without training, according to the release. OSHA issued citations for similar violations in 2014 at Southern Fiber's Orlando, Florida location.

Southern Fiber was cited for 14 serious violations, including failing to protect workers from electrical shock hazards, exposing workers to unguarded machinery and falls and not providing employees working near ovens with thermal protective gloves, according to the citations.

OSHA issued three other-than-serious safety violations involving failure to report the hospitalization of an injured employee under the agency's revised reporting rule that requires employers to notify OSHA of work-related fatalities within eight hours and work-related inpatient hospitalizations, amputations or eye loss within 24 hours.

“Southern Fiber knew the dangers that workers faced, yet it made no attempt to correct identified safety hazards,” Condell Eastmond, director of OSHA's Fort Lauderdale, Florida, area office, said in a statement. “A 30-year-old employee, who had been on the job for three days, suffered a horrific and preventable injury. Management has failed its obligation to protect workers.”

OSHA has inspected Southern Fiber 12 times since 2010, resulting in 39 citations, and has proposed placing the company in the Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which focuses resources on inspecting employers who, according to the agency, have demonstrated indifference to their Occupational Safety and Health Act obligations through willful, repeated or failure-to-abate violations.

A company spokesperson could not be reached for comment as several phone numbers listed for Southern Fiber were out of service and its website account suspended.