Adams Thermal Systems to Pay over $1.3 Million after Employee Death

Worker’s compensation lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm report that Adams Thermal Systems recently agreed to pay over $1.33 million to resolve criminal penalties and fines after a worker died at the company’s South Dakota plant.

After the worker’s death, in November 2011, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) launched an investigation into Adams Thermal. The federal investigation in February 2012 uncovered a staggering 66 regulatory violations, 58 of them deemed serious. Inspectors found that the worker’s death was caused by willfully negligence: he was crushed by a machine used to make radiator cores after management specifically instructed and authorized him and his colleagues to bypass the barrier guard, in order to adjust the machine and keep it in operation.

Because the company’s violations directly caused an employee death, the case was referred for criminal prosecution to the U.S. Attorney for the South Dakota. Adams Thermal ultimately reached an agreement with the government, resolving the OSHA criminal case.

As part of its provisions, Adams agreed to provide incentives for employees to report safety issues and make safety recommendations, increase the size of its health and safety department, hire a qualified third-part to review guarding and lockout for all machinery, and implement a company-wide safety and health program. The company is also required to report to OSHA every quarter for at least three years on the progress it is making in these areas, any employee illnesses or injuries, the safety system redesigns, and the changes in procedure specifically in the machine responsible for the death.

Adams Thermal manufactures engine cooling systems for off-road and on-road vehicles, and was placed in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program as a result of the inspections. Being placed in this federal program requires companies to be subject to surprise follow-up inspections. Adams will pay the worker’s surviving spouse $450,000, a criminal fine of $450,000, and a federal fine of $435,000, totaling $1.33 million.

In related news, federal safety officials recently fined a company $185,000 after a worker was severely burned at a paper mill in Tomahawk, Wisconsin. The injury occurred at the same facility where five other people have been killed since 2008.

The plant is owned and operated by Packaging Corp. of America, which was cited for 30 safety violations after the burn incident, including improperly storing hazardous materials. The employee was trying to light a steam boiler when he was severely burned. The company reportedly failed to provide employees with proper protective equipment.

In 2012, two workers were fatally burned by ash at the same Wisconsin paper mill. In 2008, two people died in an explosion at the plant thought to be caused by flammable vapors. Another employee was killed at a Packaging Corp. facility in Columbus, Ohio in 2009 after a similar explosion. That man was using a grinding device to trim floor bolts when sparks started flying and ignited vapors from a nearby washing unit.

A similar incident occurred in November 2012 in the Gulf of Mexico, when a series of oil explosions left three workers dead and several others injured. Investigations determined that employees with the company Black Elk Energy failed to secure the open piping according to standard safety practices, resulting in the ignition of flammable vapors. Black Elk blames the Grand Isle Shipyard, which was responsible for training and supervising the welders to ensure they were following work safety protocols.

Work accident attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm have over two decades of experience advocating on behalf of those seriously injured on the job. If you or a loved one was seriously hurt or killed while performing a work duty, you have important legal rights, and may be entitled to significant compensation for your medical bills. Contact one of our skilled attorneys as soon as possible for a free legal consultation.