Combustible dust problems at a Japanese automotive supplier’s Georgia plant and an “indifference toward safety” contributed to a workplace accident that left a 33-year-old maintenance technician with severe burns, federal safety regulators said.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) said that worker at Nakanishi Manufacturing Corp’s Winterville, Ga., plant was operating a dust collector on Sept. 23 when the airborne dust around him ignited and exploded, engulfing the man in flames.
The employee sustained extensive third-degree burns on his upper body and he continues to recover from his injuries months later.
“Every day, workers depend on their employers to keep them safe on the job. When an employer fails to address safety hazards, workers can suffer the consequences,” OSHA said in a statement about the accident.
The employee’s hospitalization for burn injuries prompted OSHA to investigate Nakanishi’s facility. That investigation concluded with citations for 19 safety violations, including one the agency deemed “willful” and several “serious.” Proposed fines for the violations totaled $144,995.
Nakanishi Manufacturing is based in Osaka, Japan. The company’s Georgia manufacturing operations, which turn out plastic and metal automotive bearing retainers, employ more than 150.
“Nakanishi Manufacturing had four previous fires in the dust collection system in Winterville and management knew that the combustible dust hazard was not corrected, yet they continued to let workers operate the system,” said William Fulcher, director of OSHA’s Atlanta-East Area Office. “Out of sight, out of mind is not an acceptable strategy for fixing workplace hazards. This mindset is dangerous, irresponsible and must be changed immediately.”
Citations were given for a variety of safety lapses, including exposing workers to unguarded and dangerous machinery and improper procedures to avoid machines from turning on during maintenance and servicing.
Source: U.S. Department of Labor