Michigan-based injection molder Grand Rapids Plastics Inc. faces $558,000 of fines following inspections from state regulators investigating the June 2014 death of worked killed in a machine he was cleaning.
The company did not enforce the use of lockout/tagout safety procedures on the horizontal injection molding machine prior to the 34-year-old victim entering the mold cavity, according to a report from the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA).
“The machine was left in automatic mode while the employee was inside, and another employee cycled the machine,” the report says.
The mold closed on Russell Scharenbroch, fatally crushing the husband and father of six on June 27, 2014.
The company was cited for three “willful serious” violations related to his death and fined $70,000 for each offense, which included inadequate training for plastic molding employees and not using lock-out devices on the molding machine and a pick-and-place conveyor.
Two other fines of $5,000 each were assessed for not having machine guards at the front and rear gates of injection molding machines and not developing lock-out safety procedures, bringing the initial penalties to $220,000.
A second companion inspection of the company, which has five buildings, was conducted a few days later.
“It was opened because MIOSHA discovered a pattern of employees entering machines while the machines were still energized and because many other safety hazards were observed,” the report says.
State inspectors slapped the company with an additional 49 violations, including six considered willful serious, and penalties of $338,000. The penalties and violations ranged from $1,500 for an employee wearing unapproved prescription glasses with homemade side shields while operating a drill press, bench grinder and lathe all the way up to $70,000 for not training the employee supervising the injection molding operations in lock-out safety.
The state says the findings meet the criteria to include Grand Rapids Plastics in the federal Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which focuses on employers “who have demonstrated indifference” to their safety obligations.
“The comprehensive companion inspection has two or more willful violations based on high-gravity serious violations related to the high-emphasis hazard of amputations,” the report says.
A third inspection was conducted in September 2014 after the state got a complaint that the business did not furnish safety glasses free of charge or require pedestrians to use designated walkways. The company was cited for not marking the boundaries of an aisle shared by forklifts and pedestrians but no monetary penalty was assessed.
From 2011-14, Grand Rapids Plastics was cited a total of 10 times for serious and other-than-serious violations and fined a total of $31,250.
Founded in 1976, the business offers low- and high-volume production runs of plastic parts for the automotive, home, sporting, electronics and construction industries. The company did not respond to questions before press time.