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November 4, 1999

Oso lumber mill fined $112,500 for violations in amputation

TUMWATER - The Department of Labor & Industries has fined a Snohomish County shingle mill $112,500 for willfully violating worker-safety rules last April in an accident that resulted in the amputation of a worker's arm.

Miller Shingle Co., Inc., doing business as Enterprise Lumber Co. in Oso near Arlington, was cited for two willful and five serious violations. Penalties totaling $112,500 were assessed. The violations involved the employer's hazardous energy controls - "lockout/tagout " - program.

Before workers perform maintenance, service or clean-up work on any equipment or machinery, employers must ensure that locks or blocks are in place to prevent any operation of the equipment that could harm the worker. The employer must provide the lockout devices, develop procedures for placing them, train the employees and periodically check to make sure that the procedures are being followed.

An 18-year-old mill worker was injured last April while attempting to remove some debris from a waste conveyor. His hand and arm were caught in the moving conveyor and pulled into it. A co-worker attempted to stop the conveyor at two shut-off buttons but both had been disconnected and made inoperable. The co-worker finally located an emergency stop more than 50 feet away, up a flight of stairs on a mezzanine.

L&I inspectors said that although the lack of emergency stops didn't cause the worker's arm to be pulled into the conveyor, damage to the arm might have been significantly less serious had it been possible to shut down the conveyor sooner.

Willful violations indicate that the employer knowingly or intentionally violated worker-protection rules, or exhibited plain indifference that a violation was occurring and failed to take corrective action.

According to the violation report, the company:

  • Willfully failed to provide an emergency, panic-type stopping device that could be reached from a sitting position on the conveyor. Specifically, emergency stop buttons located in the area of the conveyor had been disconnected for at least six months prior to the accident. ($45,000 penalty)
  • Willfully failed to ensure that the conveyor was locked out before maintenance, repairs or clean-up work was performed. The company has a lockout/tagout program in place, but failed to ensure that it was followed. ($45,000)

 The company also was cited for five serious violations for:

  • Failing to ensure that employees were trained in lockout/tagout procedures or basic hazard recognition, or given safety orientation training. ($4,500)
  • Failing to ensure that moving parts on the conveyor were guarded to prevent employees from being drawn into the machinery. ($4,500)
  • Failing to ensure that the company's accident prevention program was tailored to the specific hazards and conditions found on the worksite. ($4,500)
  • Failing to establish, supervise and enforce an effective lockout/tagout program, including training and basic hazard recognition for employees. ($4,500)
  • Failing to conduct periodic inspections of the lockout/tagout program at least annually to ensure that procedures and requirements were being followed. ($4,500)

The employer has 15 working days from receipt of the violation report to appeal.

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