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Recycling facility cited by OSHA following death of worker

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration found multiple violations in its investigation of an Illinois recycling facility following the death of a worker there on March 10. The worker, a 39-year-old man, was killed when his arm became caught in a conveyor belt. According to an OSHA press release, at least three other workers at the facility had been exposed to dangers during the cleaning of unguarded equipment.

Following its investigation into the incident, OSHA proposed that the company operating the facility, Behr Iron and Steel, be put into the Severe Violator Enforcement Program and pay $497,000 in penalties. OSHA issued the company one serious safety violation and seven willful violations. Several of the citations had to do with OSHA regulations regarding confined spaces.

A confined space is one that is limited in terms of entry and exit but that a worker may enter for the performance of certain tasks, such as cleaning. The serious violation in this case was for a failure by Behr to determine the ability of emergency responders to reach and assist workers in permit-required confined spaces. OSHA also issued willful violation citations based on the failure to implement safe entry training, practices and procedures and the failure to inform workers of the dangers of working in the facility's shredding pit.

Illinois workers' compensation laws allow for recovery for injuries or death without proving fault on the part of the employer. In a case involving a worker death, the family of the worker may choose to pursue civil recovery via a wrongful death claim, which would require a demonstration of employer fault or negligence. The findings of government agencies, including OSHA, may be relevant in such a case.

Source: Beloit Daily News, "OSHA cites Behr for worker death", September 05, 2014

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