Machine guards may have prevented arm amputation suffered by worker at Cordele, Georgia, sawmill

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Griffin Lumber & Hardware ignores hazards, receives willful violation

CORDELE, Ga. -- A job should be a source of personal accomplishment and pride, not the cause of disability and unemployment. A 29-year-old temporary worker suffered the latter at a local sawmill operated by Griffin Lumber & Hardware. The man's left arm was amputated when his jacket was caught in the drive shaft of a conveyor belt in January.

U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspectors found that workers at the Cordele-based business risked amputations and the dangers associated with unguarded sprocket wheels and chains on a conveyor belt.

The severely injured worker was employed by Labor Finders, a staffing agency that provides Griffin Lumber with temporary workers. Griffin Lumber was responsible for daily supervision, training and direction of the temporary workers. OSHA concluded an inspection with Labor Finders and issued no citations to the staffing agency.

'Griffin management admitted to inspectors that the unguarded parts had been that way for a long time,' said Robert Vazzi, OSHA's area director in Savannah. 'This terrible incident proves the company can no longer ignore worker safety and must address all safety hazards immediately.'

Griffin Lumber received a willful violation from OSHA for failing to ensure workers were protected from an unguarded sprocket and chain. OSHA alleges that the 74 full-time and temporary employees who work on-site were exposed to serious injury or death due to this violation. The company faces a proposed penalty of $56,000.

Since 2013, Griffin Lumber has been inspected three times and received citations for unsafe forklift usage, unguarded machinery and other workplace hazards.

Griffin Lumber operates a sawmill and three stores in southern Georgia. The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, request a conference with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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. OSHA has also created a National Emphasis Program on Amputations.

To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint or report workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency's Savannah Area Office at 912-652-4393.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.

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