Fatal Workplace Accident Reveals Factory had History of OSHA Violations

An employee at a Lincolnton, North Carolina manufacturing plant recently passed away after sustaining injuries on the job. Workplace accident lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm report that the plant, RSI Home Products, had at least seven Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) violations since 2008.

The worker, 35-year-old Marendonio Francisco Viruel Lopez, died in February 2013 after he became caught in one of the factory’s angular saws. He suffered serious injuries and was pronounced dead upon arrival at a local hospital. Officials at the North Carolina Department of Labor have launched an investigation into the incident. The agency will be interviewing plant employees, witnesses, managers, and anyone else with information regarding the RSI plant, specifically Plant 2, where the fatal accident took place.

A spokesperson for the Department of Labor affirmed that RSI, which manufactures kitchen cabinetry, was fined for seven violations since 2008. One of those violations was deemed serious when it was discovered that the company failed to adequately identify the aisles and passageways along the factory floors, and was fined $600 for the violation.

The inquiry is expected to take about six months to complete, as investigators will be attempting to determine if Lopez’s death was at all connected to the previous OSHA violations. They will also determine how the dangerous work conditions that took his life can be corrected, to protect other plant employees.

In a similarly tragic story, a woman in Nebraska was recently killed when she was caught in the machinery at a Kearney manufacturing plant. The woman, Kristine Griffing, was operating a shear machine late in 2011 at an Eaton Corporation factory. She became caught in the machine, sustaining serious injuries, and was taken to a nearby hospital. She died two weeks later from the injuries.

Eaton is a valve and gear manufacturing plant for automakers, and Griffing was an employee there for more than 15 years. Her daughter recently filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Eaton and the maker of the machinery. She is seeking an undisclosed amount in damages, including that for pain, suffering, injury, terror, and death, along with the medical, funeral, and burial expenses. The lawsuit is alleging that the machine’s manufacturer, Omron Electronics, was responsible for the design, manufacture, and instillation of the product that killed Griffing.

Another East Coast manufacturing company, New England Wood Pellet, was also recently cited by OSHA for numerous and repeated safety violations following inspections at two of the company’s plants in New York. Employees at these plants were exposed to fire, wood dust explosion, and rapid combustion hazards as a result of inadequate protective measures. OSHA is proposing penalties of more than $47,000.

The lack of safety measures in the New York plants were particularly concerning to OSHA investigators because they mimic similar deficiencies at the company’s plant in New Hampshire, where a combustible dust fire erupted in 2011. Not only do the Wood Pellet plants pose extreme risks of fire hazard, many of them also failed to have an extinguishing system.

Working at a manufacturing plant can be incredibly dangerous, and it is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that all machines and workplace practices are in accordance with federal and state standards. Companies with a history of workplace safety violations, such as RSI Home Products, must be subject to serious scrutiny and investigation by the government. Everyone, regardless of the industry, deserves to work in a place free from life-threatening hazards.

If you or a loved one was seriously injured or died in a workplace accident, workers compensation laws mandate that you are owed compensation for your injuries. Work accident lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm have the extensive experience to guide you through the process of getting the assistance you need for medical treatment and recovery of lost wages. Our legal team will fight to ensure your workers compensation case is handled as quickly as possible, while making sure you receive maximum compensation for your injuries.

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