Fertilizer Plant Fined: Worker Injury Prompted Investigation
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited Houston-based fertilizer company American Plant Food Corp., for 12 OSHA violations and proposed more than $181,000 in fines for the results of an inspection that was triggered by an incident that occurred last November at the company’s Bartlett plant, in which a worker’s leg was caught in an auger and he was seriously injured. Most of the citations were related to the company failing to protect workers who service or maintain machines from basic workplace hazards.
Inspectors from the Austin Area Office of OSHA determined that the company was sending workers into confined spaces to work with powerful machinery without sufficient training, and that the company did not have sufficient lockout procedures in place to protect workers. They cited the company for willful violations involving failure to implement sufficient safeguards designed to prevent workers from coming into contact with the auger while they were performing maintenance or servicing the equipment.
OSHA also cited the company for serious safety violations for their failure to provide adequate guards for the plant’s electrical equipment, machines and openings in the floor, including pits. Other citations were issued for their failure to develop and implement lockout procedures for hazards caused by industrial machinery that could unexpectedly start up, as well as for their failure to provide proper access to first aid.
This is interesting because American Plant Food Corp has had problems previously, including two investigations — one in December 1991 and another in June 1997 — following fatalities at the plant. In addition, an inspection of the company’s Fort Worth plant in 2000 resulted in citations similar to those issued this week, for violations related to the control of hazardous energy.
According to a statement issued by the Austin office of OSHA, “This worker’s debilitating injury was preventable had the employer used certain safeguards. As an established company in this industry with long-term management in place, American Plant Food Corp. should not allow such dangerous workplace practices.”
All employers have a responsibility to keep their workers safe while on the job. OSHA and Texas state officials have to do more to ensure that employers are held to a higher standard than is currently the case, and should apparently do a lot more follow up. Ultimately, however, worker injuries and deaths are the employer’s responsibility. If you or a loved one has been seriously injured or killed on the job, please contact the Texas Worksite Injury Lawyers at Hill Law Firm today as soon as possible, in order to protect your rights.