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Company could face fines after maintenance worker death

Company could face fines after maintenance worker death
Company could face fines after maintenance worker death

The federal government has proposed nearly $80,000 in fines for Omega Protein Inc. after 25 safety and health violations were uncovered following the death of a maintenance worker who was pulled into a rotating screw conveyor.

According to the Sun Herald, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released on Monday, September 17, the findings from its inspection of the facility, which occurred in April, after 24-year-old Christopher Hebert was killed at the Moss Point Plant in Mississippi.

The accident occurred during a maintenance project on April 9, which the company started as it prepared for the facility's fishing season. Hebert was performing maintenance on one of the plant's rotating screw conveyors, an asset used to move products from one level of the facility to another. When under operation, the auger-like contraption is encased in a protective shield. During the maintenance, however, this cover was removed, and Hebert became ensnared when the conveyor turned on.

"The equipment is an efficient way of moving product, but if a person gets caught in it, there's not any way to escape," said Clyde Payne, OSHA's Jackson area director, adding the death was a "terrible, traumatic incident" that could have been prevented if OSHA's standard for workplace safety had been followed.

"It is the employer's responsibility to make sure that employees are aware of and follow energy control procedures for their protection when working on any machinery," he said.

OSHA found 21 serious violations, including the failure to fix workers to lockout/tagout devices, which could have prevented the machine from turning on without warning. Serious violations include those in which there is a substantial probability that death or serious injury could occur from a hazard that was previously known to the employer.

A rotating screw conveyer was responsible for another death in Mississippi only one week earlier, the news provider stated.

"It is almost unspeakable, unbelievable to know there have been two such deaths," Payne said.

OSHA has developed specific standards for a number of industrial maintenance procedures, which aim to lower the amount of injuries and fatalities that could have otherwise been prevented. 

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