In December 2012, an employee of American Recycling & Manufacturing Co. of Rochester, N.Y., had his left hand severed when a coworker stepped on the unguarded foot pedal that activated a pop-up table saw that also lacked required protection.
The hand amputation accident spurred an investigation by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in May 2013 that determined neither the saw nor the pedal involved in the accident were shielded to prevent accidental activation or physical contact – a requirement known in the industry as lockout / tagout protections.
OSHA inspectors also found a multitude of other safety violations at the American Recycling and Manufacturing plant that threatened the safety of its workers.
The agency hit the recycling and package-manufacturing company with 16 serious citations for its failure to control accidental power-ups, properly lockout/tagout power equipment and machinery, train workers, and for a number of other violations that posed serious safety risks to workers.
OSHA proposed fines of $159,400 for the violations. American Recycling & Manufacturing contested the fines, and the matter went before Administrative Law Judge Dennis Phillips, who upheld the fines. The judge ordered the company to pay $154,800 and correct all of the problems OSHA inspectors found in the plant.
The judge found that the company had received numerous complaints from employees about the hazards of the saw and the foot pedal, but it failed to do anything about the problem. Instead, the company posted warning signs on the saw in English, but several employees, including the injured worker, were not fluent enough in English to understand the warnings.
“This decision upholds our findings that conditions at this workplace endangered employees and that two of those violations — those involving the saw and the foot pedal — contributed to the preventable loss of an employee’s hand,” said Robert Kulick, OSHA’s regional administrator in New York. “It’s up to this employer to take and maintain effective corrective action so that these hazards are eliminated and future injuries are prevented.”