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An administrative law judge of the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission affirmed a safety citation issued to an automotive hose manufacturer after an employee was seriously injured when his arm was caught in machinery.
In February 2016, an employee of Dublin, Ohio-based HBD/Thermoid Inc. was injured when his left arm was caught and crushed in a machine called a catapuller, which moves hoses through various stages of production. The catapullers were equipped with hinged, plexiglass guards that could be opened to allow workers to observe the hoses. The injured employee and other workers offered differing testimony about whether a guard had been propped open the day before the accident, according to documents in Secretary of Labor v. HBD/Thermoid Inc.
The injured worker testified he was climbing a set of stairs adjacent to the catapuller when the propped guard came down on his left hand, causing his arm to be pulled into the machine. The company testified this account would be implausible and speculated that the employee lifted the side guard and reached into the catapuller, possibly to adjust the position of the hose, court records show.
Investigators from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued a willful violation for failing to guard the catapuller’s nip points, which was later amended to a willful violation for failing to develop, document and use lockout/tagout procedures for servicing activities on the catapuller. The Secretary of Labor also moved to have the violations characterized as serious or repeat. HBD contested the citation.
The judge determined it was not necessary to determine exactly how the employee was injured but instead whether the hinged sideguard, which was easily bypassed by employees, provided inadequate protection from nip points.
“The Secretary has established HBD had actual knowledge the hinged side guard … could be bypassed by (workers), and thus was inadequate to guard the ingoing nip points,” the judge said in affirming the citation. The judge also noted the company had actual knowledge of the violative condition because video of workers opening the guards had been taken during a previous OSHA inspection of the site.
The judge, however, disagreed with the characterization of the violation as willful, noting the company had made a good-faith effort to install additional guards after two previous injuries to employees who had their hands crushed in the catapullers.
Although the company installed wire-mesh cages around the side openings of the catapullers immediately following the accident, the judge gave the company no good-faith credit in determining the penalty for the violation. The judge assigned a penalty of $70,000, saying the company is a large employer with a history of OSHA violations.
“The gravity of the violation is high,” the judge said. “HBD operated three shifts over twenty-four hours each day, with a reeler working for eight hours per shift. A reeler’s duties include constantly monitoring the hose being run for drag marks, which can bring the reeler in proximity to the inadequate side guard at any time during the shift. The likelihood of injury is moderate, but if an injury does occur, it is likely to be severe. The precaution of installing an easily bypassed guard … was inadequate to protect against employee injuries.”
The commission made the judge’s decision its final order Wednesday.
Representatives for HBD were not immediately available to comment.
An administrative law judge of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission vacated a citation against a construction company in the death of one of its employees in a decision published Wednesday.