Wood Floor Manufacturer Cited, Fined in Fatal Sawdust Collapse

QEP Co. Inc., a Johnson City wood flooring manufacturer cited and fined after a worker’s death in March, was able to negotiate a $14,000 fine reduction and the deletion of several items within the citation.

The company was originally levied a $44,000 fine by the Tennessee Occupational Safety and Health Administration. It was also cited with 11 items regarding workplace safety requirements, some of which related to the death of James A. Reed Jr., 47, when he was engulfed by sawdust in a holding silo.

The fatal incident happened around 2:30 p.m. on March 10 when Reed was cleaning a silo where a fire had occurred the previous week. According to documents provided by TOSHA, Reed was using a lift machine to reach the access panel to the interior of the silo.

Company officials told the TOSHA investigator that Reed and other employees had gone through confined space training in January and would have known to not enter the silo.

Another employee whose duty was to “lock out” the silo and turn off the power supply said he didn’t feel it was necessary because Reed would not be going inside the silo for the cleanup job. But evidence gathered at the scene included cell phone video Reed took from inside the silo several hours before the sawdust collapsed on him.

Investigators ultimately determined that Reed had entered the silo and that the sawdust material stuck to the inside of the silo broke free and covered him up. The report indicates Reed did not have a full body harness on, so he was able to climb through the access hole unrestricted.

State investigators inspected the site more than once during the investigation and found several violations that related, and some that did not, to the fatal accident. Through the citation process, QEP entered an agreement with TOSHA for eight of the violations to be deleted.

“The settlement agreement outlined additional steps the employer agreed to take to prevent an incident of this nature occurring in the future,” said Chris Cannon, public information officer for the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development. “The amended citation has not yet been issued by Tennessee OSHA. The amended citation will set a new abatement date by which the employer must abate the items cited or request additional time. The employer agrees to retrain all employees who could be exposed to a similar hazard.”

Source: Johnson City Press

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