OSHA Enforcement ActivityA 32-year-old worker at a wire mesh manufacturer died in August of last year because machine guarding had been disabled, according to an OSHA investigation. Florida-based Wire Mesh Sales LLC has been cited for dozens of safety violations and faces penalties of $697,700 in connection with the fatality.

The machine helper was struck and killed by a part that feeds the wire into the machine's welding area after he entered a large wire mesh manufacturing machine to retrieve a fallen metal bar. OSHA inspectors determined that the light curtain that would have automatically turned the machine off before he entered the danger zone had been disabled.

Proper operation of the machine's guards, a basic Occupational Safety and Health Administration requirement, would have saved his life, according to the agency.

SVEP status

The company has been placed in OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which focuses resources on inspecting employers who have demonstrated indifference to their legal obligations by committing willful, repeated or failure-to-abate violations.

Multiple machine guarding-related citationis

The per-instance willful citations include the employer's failure to guard the wire mesh manufacturing machine as well as three other large machines that make wire mesh or straighten and test the wire. Additionally, the company failed to assure that four machines, including the one involved in the incident, were shut down and hazardous sources of energy were locked or tagged out prior to employees' entering and servicing the equipment where no guards protected them from harm.

In danger seven days a week

The 56 employees, most of who were not native English speakers and who worked 12-hour shifts seven days per week, were exposed to serious injury or death because of these failures.

A total of 22 serious violations allege a variety of conditions, including: a factory floor cluttered with broken pallets creating a hazard that could lead to workers tripping and falling into moving machine parts; an electrical outlet left on the ground wrapped in tape that posed a shock hazard; and a bathroom with a sink that had been clogged for months with maggots swimming in standing water.

Additional violations

Wire Mesh was also cited for a repeat violation for failing to administer an effective hearing conservation program. The company violated this standard at its Oglesby, Ill., facility in 2012.

Finally, the company was cited for four other-than-serious safety and health violations for failing to: mark exits, assure crane operation safety and develop an effective respirator program for employees required to wear respirators.

Wire Mesh has more than 200 employees nationwide, and recorded $60 million in revenue in 2012.