Florida Manufacturer Faces OSHA Fines of $700,000

A Florida manufacturing company faces nearly $700,000 in federal fines after the accidental death of one of its workers last year, according to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

A 32-year-old employee of Wire Mesh Sales L.L.C. was killed on Aug. 16, 2013, while performing maintenance on a large wire-threading machine at the company's Jacksonville, Fla., headquarters.

A fail-safe mechanism designed to automatically shut the machine down during maintenance operations was deliberately disengaged prior to the worker's death, OSHA said in a statement released Thursday. Had the shut-off mechanism been operating, the worker likely would not have been harmed.

“This was a preventable and senseless tragedy,” U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez said in the statement. “When employers are serious about safety, everyone benefits. Wire Mesh Sales L.L.C. failed to properly implement OSHA safety regulations, and a worker paid the ultimate price.”

35 violations alleged

OSHA inspectors' investigation of the fatal accident revealed 35 alleged violations of federal workplace safety regulations. The most egregious of the agency's charges against Wire Mesh Sales included willful violations of rules requiring functioning fail-safe mechanisms on large machinery and lockout or tag-out protocols on hazardous power sources for the machinery. 

The agency said in its statement that it has placed Wire Mesh Sales in its Serious Violator Enforcement Program, which officials said is reserved for “employers that demonstrate indifference to their legal obligations” under federal workplace safety laws.

Wire Mesh Sales did not respond to a request for comment on the fatal accident or the alleged safety violations.

In addition to eight willful safety violations, OSHA inspectors also cited the company for 27 other alleged infractions, including failures to address tripping, electrical hazards and unsanitary conditions in one of the factory's restrooms. The company faces up to $697,700 in fines.

Wire Mesh Sales employs more than 200 workers across five manufacturing plants, including its Jacksonville headquarters. The company's other factories are in California, Illinois, Maryland and Texas. 

Copies of OSHA's citations against Wire Mesh Sales are available here.