The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) finished its investigation into a workplace injury at a High Springs, FL water bottling facility that left a 50-year-old temporary worker permanently disabled after a palletizer started up while he cleared a jam in the machine.

The investigation results  state the employer allowed workers to enter the palletizer’s safety cage area and bypass two photo-eye safety sensors that served as machine safeguards. As the employee removed the jammed pallet, OSHA says he unknowingly activated the palletizer elevator’s photo-eye sensor and became trapped between the elevator and the palletizer conveyor.

In a similar incident less than two years earlier, another temporary worker beginning his first day on the job at a Jacksonville, FL bottling facility was crushed to death by a palletizer. “A worker’s first day at work shouldn’t be his last day on Earth,” says David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for OSHA. “Employers are responsible for ensuring the safe conditions of all their employees, including those who are temporary.”

The employee in Jacksonville was cleaning glass from under the hoist of a palletizing machine when another employee restarted the palletizer. OSHA says the bottling facility had failed to train temporary employees on utilizing locks and tags to prevent the accidental startup of machines and to ensure its own employees utilized procedures to lock or tag out machines.

“OSHA has received far too many reports of temporary workers injured or killed on the job, with some of these incidents occurring within the employee’s first few days at work,” says Brian Sturtecky, OSHA’s area director in Jacksonville. “It is critical [the temporary staffing companies] understand OSHA’s newest initiatives to protect temporary workers, which must include shared responsibility by the host employer and the temporary staffing agency. These initiatives include taking effective steps to ensure all temporary workers are sufficiently trained and monitored to safeguard them from the hazards of their new work environment.”

Following the incident in Jacksonville—and because of other reports about temporary workers suffering fatal injuries—OSHA launched an initiative to improve workplace safety and health for temporary workers. The initiative includes outreach, training and enforcement to ensure these workers are protected while on the job.

In the case of the High Springs plant, OSHA issued a willful citation for the intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirement, or plain indifference to work safety and health. OSHA also cited the plant for a failure to conduct an annual inspection of lockout/tagout procedures and for not training workers to recognize hazardous machinery or implement proper maintenance controls.

OSHA noted nine serious violations as a result of its investigation into the worker’s death at the Jacksonville facility, which received two willful citations. In each case, proper lockout/tagout practices were not followed.

According to the OSHA Control of Hazardous Energy (Lockout/Tagout) standard, all employees should be aware their training must cover three areas: aspects of the employer’s energy control program; elements of the energy control procedure relevant to the employee’s duties or assignment; and the various requirements of the OSHA standard.

The standard also requires employers to:

  • Develop, implement and enforce an energy control program.
  • Use lockout devices for equipment that can be locked out. Tagout devices may be used if they provide protection equivalent to that achieved through a lockout program.
  • Ensure new or overhauled equipment is capable of being locked out.
  • Develop, implement and enforce an effective tagout program if machines or equipment are not capable of being locked out.
  • Develop, document, implement and enforce energy control procedures.
  • Use only lockout/tagout devices authorized for the particular equipment or machinery and ensure they are durable, standardized and substantial.
  • Ensure lockout/tagout devices identify the individual users.
  • Establish a policy that permits only the employee who applied a lockout/tagout device to remove it.
  • Inspect energy control procedures at least annually.
  • Provide effective training as mandated for all employees covered by the standard.
  • Comply with the additional energy control provisions in OSHA standards when machines or equipment must be tested or repositioned, when outside contractors work at the site, in group lockout situations and during shift or personnel changes.