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Fatal fall in coal elevator leads to safety citations


A New York-based foundry coke producer has been cited and is facing $175,200 in proposed fines from federal workplace safety regulators after an employee's fatal fall in a coal elevator.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Tonawanda, New York-based Tonawanda Coke Corp. after a January incident in which an employee preparing to grease and lubricate the elevator had his jacket caught, pulling the man onto the rotating shaft, the agency said Thursday in a statement.

OSHA determined that the employer neither shut down the elevator nor locked out its power source as required by OSHA's hazardous energy-control standard and failed to train employees on how to use energy-control procedures, among other violations, leading the agency to issue two repeat and six serious citations, according to the agency. The repeat violations were issued because OSHA had previously cited the company for similar hazards in 2010 and 2014.

“Training employees on lockout procedures and ensuring those procedures are used would have prevented this needless loss of a worker's life,” Michael Scime, OSHA's area director in Buffalo, New York, said in the statement. “Compounding this tragedy is the disturbing fact that OSHA cited Tonawanda Coke in the past for not following the requirements of the lockout standard. Yet, the company exposed both the victim and another employee who greased and lubricated plant equipment to these same hazards. This is unacceptable. It is Tonawanda Coke's responsibility to eliminate these hazards once and for all and protect its employees.”

“Safety is Tonawanda Coke's No. 1 priority,” the company said in an emailed statement. “Unfortunately, the tragic event of Jan. 6 of this year claimed the life of a well-loved, long time employee. Tonawanda Coke has conducted an extensive internal investigation with the assistance of an outside party while working with OSHA. Tonawanda Coke is greatly disappointed with OSHA's findings and disagrees strongly with the citations issued and penalties assessed. Tonawanda Coke is hopeful that the Company will be able to work with OSHA to resolve this matter through OSHA's available procedures.”

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