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Henkel Fined $200K in Worker's Death

Friday, September 13, 2013

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The death of a 26-year-old temporary worker who became entangled in an industrial adhesives mixer has drawn multiple serious and willful violations from health and safety authorities.

Calling the fatality "completely preventable," California's Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) has fined Henkel Corp. $200,825 in the case. The staffing agencies involved in the worker's hiring were also fined.

The accident occurred April 15 at Henkel's adhesives manufacturing plant in Bay Point, CA.

Henkel - Bay Point CA
Henkel Corp.

The accident occurred in April at Henkel's manufacturing plant in Bay Point, CA.

Based in Düsseldorf, Germany, Henkel is the world market leader in adhesives, sealants and surface treatments for the construction, transportation, industrial and other sectors. The company's North American headquarters is in Rocky Hill, CT.

The company did not respond Thursday (Sept. 12) to a request for comment.

Protecting Temporary Workers

Cal/OSHA cited Henkel for six serious citations, including two deemed "willful serious," as well as one general violation.

“This tragedy was completely preventable and underscores what can go wrong when employers do not take the necessary measures to correct workplace safety hazards,” said Christine Baker, director of the Department of Industrial Relations, which includes Cal/OSHA.
 
Henkel aerospace
Henkel Corp.

Henkel's products include aerospace depaint and repaint systems. The Bay Point, CA, plant serves the company's aerospace Adhesive Technologies business, according to Henkel's website.

The accident occurred the same month that the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced a new initiative to increase protections for temporary employees.

The initiative followed a series of deaths nationwide among temporary workers during the first days on a job. Such workers are often not adequately trained for their positions, Thomas Galassi, who heads OSHA's Directorate of Enforcement Programs, said in a memo outlining the new initiative.

More than 19 million temporary workers are employed in the United States; about 890,000 work in manufacturing, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Violations

The willful violations allege that Henkel failed to properly set up and maintain operation guards for the mixer and that the company failed to follow its own Injury and Illness Prevention Program regarding hazards posted by the mixer.

Cal/OSHA also found that Henkel "continued to operate the mixer despite knowing that the partial guard on the mixer exposed workers to dangerous moving parts," the agency said in a release.

The violations say Henkel had the employee use a 55-gallon mixer, instead of the manufacturer-recommended 300-gallon mixer, forcing him to scrape the equipment just 12 inches from the shaft that operated at speeds up to 350 RPM. The larger mixer would have positioned the worker 42 inches from the shaft, the citations say.

The company is also accused of not inspecting or maintaining the equipment appropriately.

A serious violation alleges that the company failed to ensure that the sleeves of the worker's coveralls fit tightly. Instead, the worker, from Antioch, CA, became entrapped in the equipment by his loose sleeve. He was pulled into the unguarded mixer shaft and was unable to free himself. He died later from his injuries.

HR Comp LLC
HR Comp LLC

Cal/OSHA also cited HR Comp LLC, the staffing agency that placed the worker. Federal OSHA has announced enhanced protection for the nation's millions of temporary workers.

"While hazards exist in most workplaces, employers have a legal responsibility to make their employees aware of those hazards and to institute a process to minimize them," said Acting Cal/OSHA Chief Juliann Sum. "When they fail to do so, tragic consequences like this death can occur."

Staffing Agencies Cited

Cal/OSHA also cited Tennessee-based HR Comp LLC, an online staffing agency that provides temporary workers for Henkel; and California-based Action Personnel Agency Inc. (dba Staffing Solutions Group), a company designated to conduct OSHA-related activities for HR Comp.

Both companies (known as Professional Employer Organizations, or PEOs) were fined $1,500 for "failure to implement an effective written [Injury and Illness Prevention Program]."

   

Tagged categories: Adhesive; Building materials; Construction; Fatalities; Health and safety; Henkel Corp; OSHA; Sealant; Transportation

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (9/13/2013, 9:45 AM)

Wow, that Henkel photo really appears to demonstrate the attitude on safety - you see a worker who appears to be literally sticking his head between rollers, with his hair almost brushing the top roller. There appears to be some type of yellow safety guard bar to the upper right of the photo, but the worker is well inside the bar, closer to the machinery than the (inside/unsafe!) side of the bar. Perhaps someone can better explain what is going on in the photo.


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