Alabama lumber mill fined for workers’ fatality, injury

Alumber company in Phenix City, Ala., is facing fines of $436,400 for repeated health and safety violations that led to the death of one worker and the critical injury of a second employee, according to a Sept. 3 announcement from the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

According to the press release, OSHA inspectors visited the facility in March for a follow-up inspection to verify abatement from a previous visit that identified failure-to-abate violations. Before OSHA could conclude its review, one worker was killed when his head was crushed between a motor being hoisted with a forklift and other equipment. Another worker was seriously injured after he fell approximately 10 ft., breaking his neck, while doing daily maintenance on the debarker in the sawmill.

In connection with the fatality, Phenix Lumber has been issued one willful and five serious safety and health citations for permitting a worker to stand under an elevated portion of a powered industrial truck allowing a crushing injury. In relation to the fall resulting in critical injury, the company has been issued one willful, one repeat and one serious safety citation for not providing guardrails and fall protection, and not having a means to disconnect a rotor motor.

The follow-up inspection additionally resulted in the company being issued two failure-to-abate, 11 repeat, 21 serious and 10 other-than-serious safety and health citations for other violations. Those violations include failing to provide energy control procedures for equipment and machinery that require more than one lockout device, failing to provide proper electrical enclosures around live conductors and allowing ignitable or combustible dust to accumulate.

"Phenix Lumber has a history of saying it will correct its safety deficiencies, yet continues to allow a hazardous environment for its workers," said Cindy Coe, regional administrator for OSHA in Atlanta. "This horrendous situation cannot continue and will not be tolerated."

The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, according to federal regulations.