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Sawmill fined nearly $2.5 million for woodchipper fatality


The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration on Thursday proposed a penalty of nearly $2.5 million for an Alabama sawmill after a worker was killed when he fell into a woodchipper.

The fatality occurred in August 2023 at a sawmill operated by Phenix Lumber Co. in Phenix City. The 20-year employee had climbed atop an auger to access a difficult-to-reach area to unclog the woodchipper and was caught in the machinery.

OSHA cited Phenix Lumber and owners John Menza Dudley Jr. and Leslie Elizabeth Dudley for 22 willful violations, one repeat violation and five serious violations, and assessed a penalty of $2,471,683.

The agency said it inspected Phenix Lumber four times in the past five years, including following a fatality in 2020. It added the company to its Severe Violators Enforcement Program that same year.

Phenix Lumber has 15 business days to contest the latest citation and proposed penalty.