The body of Sammie Trey Roberts was found early the morning of Jan. 8, mangled in a piece of machinery while on the job at Southern Wood Components in Moultrie, Georgia. Now the company faces $55,326 in fines by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for exposing employees to hazardous energy and caught-by hazards at the saw mill.

According to the Colquitt County Sheriff’s investigator, a chain on a conveyor belt came loose and Roberts’ clothes got caught in the system while he was attempting to put the chain back on without turning off the system.

On July 10, OSHA announced it cited the company for “failing to ensure energy control procedures contained specific steps to limit the release of hazardous energy, provide lockout/tagout devices for machines and equipment, and train employees to recognize hazardous energy sources.” OSHA also found Southern Wood Components wrongly allowed employees to operate powered industrial trucks without training, and cited the company for “failing to conduct an inspection of the lockout program at least annually, provide appropriate machine guarding and reduce compressed air to a safe level before allowing employees to use it for cleaning.”

The company declined to comment at the time, later issuing a verbal statement saying “Out of respect for the family, we just don’t have any comments at this time.”

“Workers who perform service and maintenance on machines and equipment must be trained on how to lockout and disable machinery to prevent unintentional startup,” said OSHA Savannah Area Office Director Margo Westmoreland. “Fatalities can be prevented if employers comply with OSHA standards, as required by law.”

Beasley Allen handles a variety of similar cases related to workplace safety. While all workers should be guaranteed a safe working environment, all too often we handle cases of serious injuries and deaths resulting from a hazardous work environment. Many times our investigation reveals defective or dangerous machinery was involved, or employers failed to provide adequate protections or ignored safety regulations.

If you need more information, contact Kendall Dunson or Evan Allen, lawyers in our Personal Injury & Products Liability Section who handle workplace litigation for our firm. The July issue of The Jere Beasley Report includes an article in the Workplace Hazards section that provides more information about dangers workers in the timber industry face.

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