A worker was inside a cement mixer at a concrete plant when a colleague turned it on, federal officials said. Now the Colorado-based company is accused of not following federal workplace safety standards after the worker faced potentially fatal injuries. The worker for Lindsay Precast Inc. was doing maintenance inside a mixer on March 2 in Colorado Springs, the U.S. Department of Labor said in an Aug. 29 news release.
While the employee was inside the machine, a co-worker turned it on, officials said, and the worker narrowly escaped fatal injuries, officials said in the release. Lindsay Precast Inc. did not immediately respond to McClatchy News’ request for comment on Monday, Aug. 29.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited the company for “exposing workers to potential hazards by not developing and using procedures to control hazardous energy and not training employees on the related dangers.” In addition to this citation, the company was cited for not training workers on safety procedures in confined spaces, fall hazards in areas around the cement mixer and procedures for powering devices either on or off that require “lockout/tagout devices,” the release states. In total, Lindsay Precast Inc. faces $203,035 in citations and penalties.
“By sheer good fortune, a worker narrowly avoided much more serious, and potentially, fatal injuries, in an incident that would have never happened if the employer had followed federal requirements to de-energize and lockout the mixer to prevent the machine’s start-up,” said Chad Vivian, the area director for OSHA’s Englewood, Colorado, office. Lindsay Precast Inc. can comply, contest OSHA’s findings or request an informal conference with the director within 15 days of the issued citations and penalties.
So, who was responsible for locking down the machine before it underwent maintenance? As a retired technician and engineer, I have spent a lot of time repairing and/or upgrading machinery, some of it quite large. When I was to work on the equipment, it was my job to ensure it was powered down and locked in such a way that it could not be easily powered on. Since it was the life of the worker in the machine that was on the line, that tech should have been responsible for locking everything down. If that task had been assigned to someone else, and the worker that went in did not confirm the lockdown, then two people are at fault for the omission of proper procedures.