The Georgia facility at which a temporary employee was crushed to death by pallets last week has a history of safety violations and citations by OSHA. Fifty-nine-year-old Willie Bonner reportedly died at the Nichiha USA in Bibb County after a robotic arm knocked him onto a conveyer belt. OSHA is investigating the fatality.
News reports say Bonner’s is the second fatality to be investigated OSHA at the facility since it opened in 2007. Wall panels and siding are manufactured at the plant, which is the company’s first in the United States.
In 2009, OSHA proposed $128,560 in penalties against the plant for 27 safety and health violations, many of which had been identified during an investigation following a 2008 employee fatality.
"Despite management's agreement at the time, our return inspection in 2009 has found that the company continues to endanger its workers' safety and health,” said Gei-Thae Breezley, director of OSHA's Atlanta-East Area Office at the time. “The size of these penalties reflects management's failure to address its problems."
Violations from the 2008 inspection include the employer's failure to cover or install guardrails around slurry pits, lack of guards around an exposed chain and no specific energy control procedures for equipment that had more than one energy source and inadequate training for hazardous chemical handling and confined spaces. Additionally, there were citations for fall and electrical hazards, lockout/tagout of energy source and improper storage of compressed gas cylinders.
Family members made a public statement yesterday via local media, saying they’ve reached out to Nichiha USA for details about the incident but have yet to hear back from the company.
Bonner’s funeral will be held on Saturday.