Worker loses scalp in unguarded machine, her first week on-the-job, employer contests OSHA violation

In late July, David Moye of the Huffington Post reported on a horrific incident at JR Engineering of Barberton, Ohio in which Monica Thayer, 25, was pulled by the hair into a piece of machinery.

"She was in the Barberton factory cleaning a machine that cuts steel tubing when her long brown hair, which was pulled back, got caught and yanked her face first into the device.  'My biggest fear was that I would be moments away from getting rescued, and then it would start-up and kill me,' she said in a report that aired on Fox affiliate WDAF-TV. 'The next thing I realized, it had sucked me up and pulled me behind the bar that started to spin as I was cleaning the machine out, and up against the cutter.' Unable to reach the safety stop button, Thayer screamed for help."

...Rescue crews spent 20 minutes trying to free Thayer from the machine.  Although she knew the hair had been ripped out, she didn't realize her scalp had been torn off as well.  ...Surgeons at Akron General spent eight hours stopping Thayer's head from bleeding and saved her life."

Local news reports indicate it was Monica Thayer's first week on the job.  The HuffPost story noted that the job paid $8 per hour and didn't provide health insurance.  It's a firm with 1,700 employees.

Federal OSHA doesn't typically conduct an inspection following this type of injury incident.  The agency has limited resources, and sets priorities for its inspection resources.  In most cases, at least one worker has to be killed, or three workers have to be admitted to a hospital for treatment, before OSHA will show up.  The agency does, however, have a special interest in amputation incidents.

For the July 2 incident at JR Engineering that nearly killed Monica Thayer, OSHA conducted a partial inspection.  It resulted in a single citation for one serious violation of machine guarding regulations (29 CFR 1910.212(a)(1)).   This rule require:

"One or more methods of machine guarding shall be provided to protect the operator and other employees in the machine area from hazards such as those created by point of operation, ingoing nip points, rotating parts, flying chips and sparks. Examples of guarding methods are-barrier guards, two-hand tripping devices,electronic safety devices, etc."

The citation, with a proposed penalty of $7,000, was issued by OSHA to JR Engineering on August 29, 2012.  The employer is contesting OSHA's finding and the penalty.  They must not think they are responsible.   If not them, who?  Surely not the worker with less than 1 week on the job.


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From Congressional hearing about Bread and Roses Strike, 1912. Camella testifies/
She told the CHAIRMAN: Well, I used to go to school, and then a man came up to my house and asked my father why I didn’t go to work, so my father says I don’t know whether she is 13 or 14 years old. So, the man say you give me $4 and I will make the papers come from the old country saying you are 14. So, my father gave him the $4, and in one month came the papers that I was 14. I went to work, and about two weeks got hurt in my head.
The machine pulled the scalp off.
The CHAIRMAN said. The machine pulled your scalp off?
Yes, sir.
I was in the hospital seven months. The company only paid my bills; they didn’t give me anything else. No wages.

By Chuck Levenstein (not verified) on 21 Nov 2012 #permalink