OSHA cites Behr Iron & Steel recycling plant after worker fatality

September 5, 2014

Following the death of a worker at Behr Iron & Steel Inc.’s recycling facility in South Beloit, Ill., the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited the company for seven willful and one serious safety violations. The company operates under the name Behr Iron & Metal.

The 37-year-old victim suffered multiple external and internal injuries after his arm was caught in a conveyor belt at the scrap metal shredding and sorting facility on March 10. At least three other workers also were exposed to dangerous, unguarded machines during cleaning operations.

Workers entered the shredder discharge pit through a 2.5- by 3.5-ft. opening to perform their daily cleaning activities. Those activities involved shoveling metal scrap material that had accumulated in the pit onto a takeaway conveyor system. This conveyor was not guarded, and the shredder was not locked out prior to the workers entering the pit.

Several of the willful violations involved OSHA’s permit-required confined-space regulations. A confined space is one large enough for workers to enter and perform certain jobs, has limited or restricted means for entry or exit, and is not designed for continuous occupancy. OSHA found violations, such as failing to implement training, procedures, and practices for safe entry into the shredder pit and failing to inform employees of the dangers present in the pit. The company also failed to prepare entry permits before allowing cleaning activities inside of the pit.

The other willful violations cite the company for failing to utilize energy control procedures to prevent workers from coming in contact with operating parts of dangerous machinery by de-energizing and locking out the conveyor belt and providing workers specific instructions to follow before they can safely enter the shredder pit. Behr Iron & Steel also was cited for failing to conduct periodic inspections of equipment-specific lockout/tagout procedures since 2010.

One serious violation was issued for failing to evaluate the ability of emergency services to respond to emergencies occurring within a required permit-confined space. An OSHA violation is serious if death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard an employer knew or should have known exists.

OSHA has proposed penalties of $497,000 and placed the company in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program.

To ask questions; obtain compliance assistance; file a complaint; or report workplace hospitalizations, fatalities, or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA’s hotline at 800-321-6742.