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FATAL ACCIDENT LEADS TO $145,350 FINE FOR MISSISSIPPI SAWMILL
SILVER CREEK, Miss. -- A Mississippi sawmill's failure to provide fall protection contributed to the death of a worker and led to a proposed fine of $145,350, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced today.
An employee of Joe N. Miles & Sons, Inc. was killed May 7 when he fell nearly 17 feet from the steel beams of a lumber sorter to the concrete floor below. The victim, who had been attempting to rearrange a misaligned wood board, wore no fall protection.
"This kind of tragedy is what OSHA must strive to prevent," said Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao. "OSHA's goal is not only to penalize companies after an accident, but to help them achieve safe and healthy workplaces where accidents like this don't occur."
OSHA's inspection resulted in two alleged willful citations, one of which drew a proposed fine of $63,000 for hazards directly associated with the fatality -- absence of guardrails and personal fall protection for employees walking on the lumber sorter's platforms and steel beams. The second willful citation, with a proposed penalty of $49,500, dealt with similar violations in connection with a 17-foot high conveyor belt used to access for maintenance a machine called a block hog or chipper mill.
"This employer displayed an intentional disregard for OSHA's fall protection standard," said Clyde Payne, OSHA's Jackson area director. "Management had been informed of fall hazards by the company's safety committee in January and reminded monthly thereafter. Despite the continuing compliance problem, they made no effort to abate the dangerous conditions."
The company was also cited for 9 serious violations, including lack of guardrails on elevated platforms and walkways, lack of training on the use of fall arrest equipment, unguarded machinery, and no specific lockout procedures to render machinery inoperable during maintenance and repair. The serious citations were accompanied by a $32,850 proposed penalty.
Willful violations are those committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and regulations. Serious violations are those in which a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result, and the employer knew or should have known of the hazard.
Joe N. Miles & Sons employs about 200 people, 108 of whom work at the Silver Creek location. The company may contest the OSHA citations and penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
Inspection of the sawmill was conducted by OSHA's area office located at 3780 I-55 North, Suite 210, Jackson, Miss. 39211; telephone: (601) 965-4606.
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