Not an “accident”: Tim Cooper, 49, suffers fatal work-related injury in Decatur, Alabama

Tim Cooper, 49, suffered fatal traumatic injuries on Wednesday, October 28 while working at Independence Tube in Decatur, Alabama. The Decatur-Daily reports:

  • "...Cooper was handling steel coils when one coil, which weighed about 6,000 pounds, fell on him."
  • The coil "...was held on a cart designed to support the coil’s weight."
  • "Cooper, who was working with a team that slits the coils into narrower pieces, was preparing to band the smaller pieces when the coil fell off the cart, according to a police statement."

The Decatur-Daily also notes that Cooper had worked for Independence Tube since 2010.

The company is a familiar one to OSHA. In August 2015, Independence Tube was cited by OSHA for four serious violations at its plant in Marseilles, IL. The citations involved unguarded machinery and an ineffective lockout/tagout program. Independence Tube is paying off a $16,000 penalty for those violations. Another inspection this year, this one at its Chicago location, resulted in one serious violation and a $3,000 penalty. The most recent inspection at the Decatur, Alabama location occurred in 2009. It resulted in four serious violations, including those related to an overhead or gantry crane, and a 8,775 penalty which was paid by the firm.

Each year, dozens of workers in Alabama are fatally injured on the job. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 70 work-related fatal injuries in Alabama during 2014 (preliminary data, most recent available.) Nationwide, at least 4,679 workers suffered fatal traumatic injuries in 2014.

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

  • Federal OSHA has 25 inspectors in Alabama to cover more than 97,000 workplaces.
  • The average penalty for a serious violation in Alabama is $2,016.
  • The average penalty for citations related to a work-related fatality occurring in Alabama is $7,500.

Federal OSHA has until May 2016 to issue any citations and penalties related to the incident that stole Tim Cooper’s life. It’s likely they’ll determine that his death was preventable. It was no “accident.”


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