OSHA fines Behr Iron following fatality

Agency cites scrap metal recycler with numerous violations.

September 10, 2014

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited Behr Iron & Steel Inc., Rockford, Illinois, with seven willful violations and one serious safety violation after an employee at the company’s South Beloit, Illinois, scrap recycling facility was killed when his arm was caught in a conveyor belt March 10, 2014.

The worker had been hired as a permanent employee in October 2013 after working under a temp-to-hire program though a local staffing agency.

On the day of the incident, workers entered the shredder discharge pit through a 2.5-foot-by-3.5-foot opening to perform daily cleaning activities, which involved shoveling scrap metal that had accumulated in the pit onto a takeaway conveyor system. The conveyor was not guarded and the shredder was not locked out prior to the workers entering the pit, according to OSHA.

“Management was aware that the shredder was not being locked out and that workers were accessing the pit with the conveyors running,” says Nick Walters, OSHA regional administrator in Chicago. “OSHA’s investigation found that safety training at the plant was woefully inefficient. The company failed to develop and implement required safety procedures at the facility, including permit-required confined space entry and hazardous energy control, despite being previously cited by OSHA for similar conditions at other locations.”

Several of the willful violations involved OSHA’s permit-required confined space regulations, the agency says. A confined space is an area large enough for workers to enter and perform certain jobs that has limited or restricted means for entry or exit and is not designed for continuous occupancy. OSHA says it 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.

Behr Iron & Steel also was cited for failing to conduct periodic inspections of equipment-specific lock out/tag out procedures since 2010. A willful violation is defined by OSHA as one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirement, or plain indifference to employee safety and health.

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, the agency says. 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.

Prior to the current OSHA inspection, Behr had been inspected six times in the previous five years at various locations in Illinois and Iowa. In March 2010, numerous violations were issued to the company's Mason City, Iowa, shredding facility after an employee's arm became trapped and seriously injured while entering a permit-required confined space to perform cleaning operations, OSHA says,

After receiving a complaint, OSHA conducted an investigation and issued multiple citations in September 2010 to the company’s Peoria, Illinois, shredding facility. That investigation determined that the company’s procedures for ensuring that hazardous machines were properly turned off before workers performed service and maintenance were inadequate, OSHA says. 

Behr Iron & Steel 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 an independent Occupational Safety & Health Review Commission.