PORTSMOUTH, OH ‒ For the third time in five months, federal safety inspectors responded to a Portsmouth hardwood flooring mill to investigate reports of unsafe machinery. Two of those inspections involved worker’s injuries, the latest on Oct. 5, 2022, when a worker’s fingertip was partially amputated because it was caught in an unguarded belt and pulley.
Inspectors with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration determined the mill’s lack of guarding, safety procedures and training exposed employees to machine hazards. The agency responded to similar injuries in May and July 2022 at Appalachian Wood Floors Inc. that operates as Graf Custom Hardwood. The company informed OSHA of the injuries within 24 hours, as required.
As a result of the October inspection, OSHA cited the company for six repeated and 12 serious safety violations involving machine safety procedures, trip hazards for surfaces filled with debris and various electrical safety violations. The company faces additional proposed penalties of $333,693 and has been placed in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program.
“These preventable injuries demonstrate a blatant disregard for the safety of workers and a failure to train them on safety procedures,” said OSHA Area Director Ken Montgomery in Cincinnati. “Graf Custom Hardwood must immediately review their machines for adequate guarding and train their workers so they can operate the machines safely.”
The agency conducted three other inspections at Graf Custom Hardwood in 2022 including:
Two inspections opened May 24 resulting in OSHA citing five serious and one other-than-serious violations involving an unguarded chain and sprocket, lack of recordkeeping, unsafe electrical conditions and trip hazards from debris littering walking and working surfaces.
An inspection opened July 12, 2022, after the company reported a worker suffered a finger amputation. OSHA cited two serious violations for a lack of machine guarding.
During the October inspection, OSHA noted employees required to clean, unjam and maintain equipment were not trained on lockout/tagout procedures nor provided hand tools to assist with unjamming machines, and that many machines lacked adequate guarding. OSHA also noted stairs lacked guard rails, unsafe electrical practices and workers unable to safely exit and enter their workspaces due to debris littering the floor.
The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
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