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Lumber Companies See Continued Worker Deaths In Alabama

Phenix City, Alabama – A lumber company maintenance employee at Phenix Lumber Company in Phenix City, Alabama was pronounced deceased after getting stuck in a piece of equipment.

The accident occurred during late August at around 3:30pm. Police and fire medics were dispatched to 4 Cultrate Road.

Police Captain Skip Lassiter said that when first responders reported onto the scene, they were directed to the sawmill area where James Streetman, 67, was found dead. Lassiter has stated the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was notified and that the investigation remains ongoing. Authorities have noted that this is the second major incident to occur at Phenix Lumber Company within three years.

In 2020, Brandon Lee Vandyke was killed when he got stuck in a woodchipper. OSHA has cited MDLG, which does business as Phenix Lumber Company, as violating 53 safety and health codes in September 2010. The citation was done following the death of an employee and the critical injury of another.

OSHA states that in 2010, inspectors were conducting a review when the 52 year old Charles Mercer’s head got crushed between a motor being hoisted with a forklift and other equipment. The other employee was seriously injured after falling nearly 10 feet and breaking his neck while he was performing daily maintenance on a debarker. In 2011, OSHA fined Phenix Lumber Company $1.9 million for willfully exposing employees to amputation harms by being caught between or hit by pieces of machinery and falling lumber.

In a 2011 OSHA statement, the agency reported Phenix Lumber Company’s total health and safety violations as 77. OSHA has also stated that Phenix Lumber has failed to train 11 of their employees on how to shut down their machines. The company also permitted a worker to stand under an elevated portion of a powered industrial truck, which caused an injury. Phenix Lumber additionally has failed to provide guardrails and fall protection, and there is no means to disconnect a rotor motor.

Dr. David Michaels, prior Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA, said Phenix Lumber, “failed to protect its workers from death and serious injury. Employers are legally bound to provide a safe work environment for their employees.” Michaels goes on to point out that, “this company has repeatedly failed to do so, costing one worker his life and grievously injuring another. This must stop.”

Phenix Lumber has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Streetman’s unfortunate death is the second such death at the mill in the last three years and the third in the last 14 years.

Partners of Phenix Lumber Company

Additional Other Lumber Mill Company Deaths

Troy, Alabama – Another lumber worker died in an Alabama facility in December of 2022 at Rex Lumber LLC, the operator of sawmills in Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, Massachusetts, Mississippi, and Virginia. The U.S. Department of Labor launched an investigation after the company disregarded federal workplace safety standards throughout its entire organization for the third time since 2020.

The 20-year-old sawmill worker was crushed when stored energy caused the infeed unit to close on him at Rex Lumber LLC in Troy, Alabama. He was one of six people working to clear a jammed roller when the incident occurred, according to an investigation by the department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The incident occurred after two Rex Lumber sawmills in Florida experienced disasters in 2020 and 2021 as a result of inappropriate machine operations. In March 2021, while attempting to repair a malfunctioning hydraulic valve at the Graceville facility, a worker became entangled in the wheels and pulleys of the machine and sustained crushing injuries. A worker at the Bristol, Florida, facility had an amputation injury in December 2020 after their hand made contact with the conveyor roller’s nip point. The individual passed away a few days later in the hospital.

“Rex Lumber’s failure to comply with well-known safety requirements led to the death of a worker and put others at serious risk of harm,” explained OSHA Area Office Director Jose Gonzalez in Mobile, Alabama. “Safety standards exist to protect workers from the hazards of moving machinery and when followed, they can save lives.”

Following its Troy investigation, OSHA recommended $184,385 in fines for the company. The sawmill operator and its companies have been cited by the EPA for 19 serious and other-than-serious offenses since 2013.

Rex Lumber LLC has been in business since 1926 and operates sawmills in Brookhaven, Mississippi; Troy, Alabama; and Bristol and Graceville, Florida. About 360 people are employed by the enterprise to harvest yellow pine for lumber.

After receiving the citations and penalties, the corporation has 15 business days to either comply with OSHA’s regulations, request an informal conference, or challenge the findings in front of the impartial Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Source Bylt OSHA OSHA

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