The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited Rexnord Industries LLC with $130,500 in proposed penalties for violations of federal workplace safety standards after a mechanical power press began to operate unexpectedly, severing the arm of a female employee. Rexnord Industries manufactures power transmission, conveying, and water management equipment, and it employs more than 5,300 workers at 22 facilities in the U.S.

Many times when investigators look into a personal injury claim, they find a defective product is to blame. This is especially true in the case of workers injured on the job. What might initially appear to be a worker’s compensation claim might turn out to be a case involving a dangerous product or piece of equipment, about which employers should have been aware.

Although a state’s worker’s compensation system places limitations on the ability of employees to hold employers accountable for work-related injuries, many people do not realize that there may be another available source of recovery. If a product causes an on-the-job injury, a product liability suit may be brought against the product’s manufacturer. Unfortunately, catastrophic injuries, deaths, and amputations commonly occur from defective products found in the work place.

In addition to defective machinery, employees can sustain injuries on the job due to the negligence of a third party.

In this recent case, OSHA proposed the penalties after completing its investigation of the accident, issuing one willful violation, six serious violations, and one repeat citation to Rexnord. The willful citation carries a proposed penalty of $70,000 for the company’s failure to provide proper guarding on the mechanical power presses, which could have prevented the amputation from occurring.

OSHA defines a willful violation as one that companies commit with intentional, knowing, or voluntary disregard for federal laws and standards or plain indifference and lack of concern for employee health and safety.

The six serious citations carry penalties of $25,000 and include failure to provide proper machine guarding and failure to conduct regular, periodic, and weekly inspections of mechanical power presses and electrical hazards.

OSHA cites employers with serious violations when it finds workers are at serious risk of physical injury and death due to hazards that the employer knew or should have known existed.

Rexnord’s received a $35,000 proposed fine for a repeat violation involving its failure to provide proper protection to its employees working on metal cutting band saws and lathes. OSHA cited the company previously for the same violation but found that appropriate corrective measures had not been taken.

OSHA issues a repeat violation when it finds an employer was cited previously for the same or similar violation of any standard, regulation, rule, or order at any of its facilities within the last three years. According to OSHA, Rexnord has had more than 340 violations.

“There is no excuse for a company to disregard the safety and welfare of its workers by not following OSHA safety standards,” said OSHA Area Director George Yoksas in Milwaukee. “Those who ignore safe practices and OSHA regulations are inviting tragedy into the lives of their workers.”

Rexnord has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

The importance of examining third party claims when examining workers’ compensation claims is extremely important to the client. All common law damages, past/future pain and suffering, past/future mental anguish, loss of enjoyment, lost income and punitive damages are recoverable. Additionally, spouses of injured employees can file loss of services or consortium claims. This, of course, is not possible under workers’ compensation.

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