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OSHA News Release – Region 4
U.S. Department of Labor
Region 4 News Release: USDOL: 00-144
Wed., Aug. 16, 2000
Contact: Tom Brown
PHONE: (770) 984-8256/8700
OSHA FINES MOHAWK INDUSTRIES $105,000 FOLLOWING FATAL ACCIDENT AT ROME, GA., PLANT
The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration today cited Mohawk Industries, Inc., and proposed penalties totaling $105,000 following a fatality at the company's West Rome Dye House.
According to Thomas Brown, OSHA's Atlanta-West area director, a worker standing by his forklift truck was hit by another lift truck on Feb. 24 and died during surgery four days later. Brown explained that the forklift that struck the victim was moving a buggy loaded with carpet that obstructed the driver's view.
Following inspection of the fatality, OSHA cited Mohawk with one willful violation with a proposed fine of $70,000 for permitting employees to operate powered industrial trucks in a forward motion while the view of the path of travel is obstructed.
Five additional serious citations for safety violations involving powered industrial trucks and lockout/tagout procedures drew penalties totaling $35,000. The powered industrial truck violations involved training of operators by an unqualified instructor and failing to certify employees as trained and evaluated. Violations related to lockout/tagout - procedures that render machinery inoperable during maintenance and repair -- included lack of energy control procedures; failure to conduct a periodic inspection; allowing unauthorized employees to perform lockout on machinery, and failure to train and certify workers for lockout/tagout functions.
"This company uses lift trucks in 127 of its 132 facilities nationwide and has an extensive lift truck safety program," said Brown. "During training, a video which Mohawk helped to produce specifically instructs that loads should be trailed when forward view is obstructed."
Brown continued, "We issued a willful citation in this case because company officials knew that lifts were moving buggies on a daily basis with the forward view obstructed. Even though there was a forklift safety program in place, no action was taken to address the hazard.
"An unenforced program is an ineffectual one. If Mohawk had followed its own guidelines, this tragedy could have been avoided."
Brown was pleased, however, that the company had taken steps to correct safety hazards after the tragic accident. "In fact," added Brown, "they went a step further. As a leader in the carpet industry, Mohawk pledged to sponsor a series of roundtable discussions focusing on industry safety and health concerns affecting Northwest Georgia's increasingly diverse workforce."
Brown explained that the conferences will allow industry representatives to pool their knowledge on how best to address safety issues among the industry's multi-cultural employee base. During "brainstorming" sessions, Mohawk will share what they have learned during their OSHA experience and will encourage participating companies to emphasize safety awareness and compliance.
OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the OSH Act and regulations.
A serious violation is defined by OSHA as one in which there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result and the employer knew, or should have known, of the hazard.
Calhoun, Ga.-based Mohawk Industries is the second largest carpet manufacturer in the United States. There are approximately 25 employees at the West Rome Dye House and about 25,000 nationwide.
Inspections of the Rome facility were conducted by OSHA's area office located at 2400 Herodian Way, Suite 250, Smyrna, Ga. 30080-2968; telephone: (770) 984-8700.
OSHA urges employers and employees with questions regarding workplace safety and health standards to contact the Atlanta area office. OSHA's toll-free, nationwide hotline - 1-800-321-OSHA (1-800-321-6742) - may be used to report workplace accidents or fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, especially if they occur outside of normal business hours.
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