ATHENS, AL – A federal workplace safety investigation found an employer’s failure to follow federal safety standards contributed to a 45-year-old worker suffering fatal injuries after a forklift struck her as she walked across an Athens lumber shipping yard on Nov. 15, 2021.

Investigators with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Sunbelt Forest Products LLC – operating as Sunbelt Forest Products Corp. – for exposing workers to struck-by hazards by allowing employees to walk where forklift drivers could not see them, and for failing to distinguish and mark shipping department travel aisles for trucks, forklifts and pedestrians.

The company also failed to require forklift drivers to keep a clear view of the driving path and did not remove damaged forklifts from service. OSHA has proposed $53,866 in penalties.

“A forklift typically weighs between 4,000 to 9,000 pounds and poses significant risk of severe injury or death to workers who may be struck-by this equipment. Employers must take precautions in workplaces that use powered industrial vehicles to prevent devastating incidents and the loss of someone’s life,” said OSHA Area Office Director Ramona Morris in Birmingham, Alabama.

Sunbelt Forest Products LLC is an Athens-based manufacturer of treated lumber. 

The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Visit OSHA’s website for information on developing a workplace safety and health program. Employers can also contact the agency for information about OSHA’s compliance assistance resources and for free help on complying with OSHA standards.

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