Not an “accident”: William Jeffrey Belk, 29, suffers fatal work-related injuries at Boise Cascade plywood plant in North Carolina

William Jeffrey Belk, 29, suffered fatal traumatic injuries on Friday, September 26 while working at the Boise Cascade Wood Products plant in Moncure, NC. News reports provide some initial information on the worker’s death:

  • “The Chatham County Sheriff's Office says a worker at a wood products company died when a piece of machinery fell on him.”
  • John Sahlberg, senior vice president of Human Resources at Boise Cascade, told The Sanford Herald: "The equipment had a C-clamp, and somehow or another, the C-clamp was up and came down on him. We don't have details as to what he was doing or why the C-clamp was up."

The Wood Working Network reports:

“The specialty plywood mill, which Boise Cascade purchased in a year ago, produces both hardwood and softwood panels. Boise Cascade acquired the Moncure plywood mill, along with Chester Wood Products, from Wood Resources LLC in September 2013 for $102 million.”

William Jeffrey Belk is survived by his wife and three sons.

OSHA’s on-line record of inspections does not show any inspections of the workplace when it was Moncure Plywood. Since January 2010, a number of Boise Cascade operations have been inspected by State OSHA agencies in Washington, Oregon, Tennessee and South Carolina. Two of the inspections resulted in the company paying a penalty for serious violations.

Each year, dozens of workers in North Carolina are fatally injured on-the-job. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 104 work-related fatal injuries in North Carolina during 2013 (preliminary data, most recent available.) Nationwide, at least 4,405 workers suffered fatal traumatic injuries in 2013.

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

  • North Carolina OSHA (NC-OSHA) has 104 inspectors in the state to cover more than 215,000 workplaces.
  • The average penalty for a serious OSHA violation in North Carolina is $996.

NC-OSHA has until mid-March 2015 to issue any citations and penalties related to the incident that stole William Jeffrey Belk’s life. It’s likely they’ll determine that Belk’s death was preventable. It was no “accident.”

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