BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — An Alabama company pleaded guilty Tuesday to a willful Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standard violation that led to the death of one of its workers four years ago.
On Aug. 16, 2017, a worker at ABC Polymer Industries’ plant in Helena died when they were pulled into a cluster of unguarded moving rollers. Court documents stated the machine that killed the worker was equipped with a barrier guard that could be pulled down over an exposed side.
Though OSHA requires that type of moving machine to be guarded when operating, ABC Polymer was aware its employees regularly raised the guard to cut tangled plastic, documents stated. Prosecutors claimed the company trained employees in this method and admitted it knew or should have known these practices exposed employees to potential injury or death in violation of federal law.
“This tragic loss of life could have been avoided by following federal safety standards,” U.S. Attorney Prim Escalona said in a statement. “We are grateful for the work of our OSHA partners in holding employers accountable for the safety of their employees. My office will use the tools available to us to protect Alabama workers and prosecute employers who willfully violate federal safety laws.”
Under federal law, it’s a Class B misdemeanor to willfully unfollow an OSHA safety standard that caused an employee’s death. A conviction carries a maximum sentence of a $500,000 fine, twice the financial gain to the defendant, or twice the financial loss to another, whichever is greater, plus restitution to the victim.
U.S. District Judge Annemarie Carney Axon will determine restitution at a later date.