JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. - Tennessee-based QEP Co. Inc., a wood flooring manufacturer, has been fined and cited $14,000 after a worker was killed in a sawdust collapse.
James A. Reed Jr., 47, was killed in March after being engulfed by sawdust in a holding silo. According to Tennessee's OSHA division, TOSHA, Reed was using a lift machine to reach an access panel to the interior of the silo. Reed was attempting to clean off four feet of wet material stuck to the sides of the silo caused by firefighters putting out a fire a few days earlier.
An employee whose duty was to "lock out" the silo and turn off power said he didn't think it was necessary because he didn't believe Reed would be entering the silo for the cleanup. But a cell phone video taken by Reed showed that he was inside the silo a few hours before the sawdust collapsed on him.
Around 2:30 pm, another employee saw a cloud of dust come out of the access panel where Reed was working. The employee drove over, but couldn't find Reed. He tried to reach him on the radio but couldn't. The employee called 911.
Employees tried to dig Reed out until the fire department arrived and took over.
Investigators determined that Reed entered the silo and was crushed by the material stuck to the inside. The company told TOSHA that employees went through confined space training, and should have known not to enter the silo.
TOSHA originally fined QEP $44,000 and cited 11 times for workplace safety requirements.
Through a negotiation, QEP managed to get TOSHA to remove eight of those citations and lower its fine to $14,000.
“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.”
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