Not an “accident”: Elbert C. Woods, 45, suffers fatal work-related injury at Cleveland, Ohio company

Elbert C. Woods, 45, suffered fatal traumatic injuries on Thursday, August 21 while working at Cleveland Track Material. Local reporters provide some initial information on the worker’s death:

The Northeast Ohio Media Group reports:

  • Woods’ clothing became stuck in a machine and he was pulled into it.
  • Woods’ co-workers were able to free him from the machine while they awaited response by the local fire department.

Cleveland.com notes that Cleveland Track Material:

  • Employs about 250 people.
  • The company manufactures railway track and components, such as switches that move trains from one track to another.
  • The firm was founded in 1984 and is now a division of Vossloh North America.

Vossloh North America is a subsidiary of the German-based Vossloh Group of 100 companies operating in 30 countries. The 2013 stock market value of the firm was about €870 million (or $1.15 Billion US).

OSHA’s investigation into Elbert Woods’ death will not be the first time the agency has inspected the site. A 2009 inspection resulted in citations against the firm for five serious violations and a $4,235 penalty. Several of the violations involved inadequate guarding of moving parts and equipment.

Each year, more than 150 workers in Ohio are fatally injured on-the-job. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 161 work-related fatalities in Ohio during 2012 (most recent available data.) Nationwide, at least 4,628 workers suffer fatal traumatic injuries in 2012.

The AFL-CIO’s annual Death on the Job report notes:

  • Federal OSHA has 53 inspectors in Ohio to cover more than 250,400 workplaces.
  • The average penalty for a serious OSHA violation in Ohio is $2,156.

Federal OSHA has until late February 2015 to issue any citations and penalties related to the incident that stole Elbert C. Woods’ life. It’s likely they’ll determine that Woods’ death was preventable. It was no “accident.”

Notably, just a few weeks ago, OSHA commenced an inspection at Vossloh’s facility in Reading, PA related to the death of another employer. The Reading Eagle reports:

  • Michael John Rettew, 41, suffered a serious work-related injured on April 29. He succumb to his injuries on July 8, 2014 which triggered the OSHA inspection.

The agency previously inspected the Vossloh’s Reading, PA facility in 2010. The inspection resulted in citations for three serious violations related to electrical hazards and lockout/tagout requirements. The company paid a $1,225 penalty.