A 50-year-old temporary worker in Florida is now permanently disabled after being crushed in a packaging machine that started up while he was clearing a jam.
The man, who had been on the job for 12 days, was working on a machine used to package cases of bottled water at the Ice River Springs beverage company in High Springs, Florida.
The plant, located in a small community southwest of Jacksonville, is one of 11 facilities the Morganton, N.C.-based company owns and operates in the U.S. and Canada.
An investigation by OSHA found the employer allowed workers to enter the palletizer's safety cage area and bypass two photo-eye safety sensors that served as machine safeguards.
When the employee freed the pallet from the jam, he unknowingly activated the palletizer elevator's photo-eye sensor and was trapped between the elevator and the palletizer conveyor.
While OSHA did cite Ice River Springs, they did not issue any citations to the staffing agency.
"OSHA has received far too many reports of temporary workers injured or killed on the job, with some of these incidents occurring in the employee's first few days at work," said Brian Sturtecky, OSHA's area director in Jacksonville. "It is critical that Ice River Springs and TempForce understand OSHA's newest initiatives to protect temporary workers, which must include shared responsibility by the host employer and the temporary staffing agency. These initiatives include taking effective steps to ensure that each temporary worker is sufficiently trained and monitored to safeguard them from the hazards of their new work environment."
OSHA issued a "willful citation" to Ice River Springs for failure to ensure workers were protected from moving machine parts during service or maintenance. The 41 full-time and temporary employees who work onsite were exposed to serious injury or death due to this violation they said. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirement, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.
Two serious violations were cited for failure to conduct an annual inspection of lockout/tagout procedures and for not training workers to recognize hazardous machinery or implement proper maintenance controls. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.
In April 2013, OSHA announced an initiative to improve workplace safety and health for temporary workers, who are at increased risk of work-related injury and illness. The initiative includes outreach, training and enforcement to ensure that temporary workers are protected on the job.
OSHA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health have also issued a "Recommended Practices"* publication that focuses on ensuring temporary workers receive the same training and protection as permanent employees.
Staffing Talk did reach out to Ice River Springs headquarters for comment, but they have not responded.