OSHA cites Tonawanda Coke after fatal January accident in plant

Local News

TONAWANDA, N.Y. (WIVB) — The Tonawanda Coke Corporation has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), who says the company could have prevented the January death of an employee.

On January 6, a 60-year-old employee of Tonawanda Coke was pulled into the rotating shaft of a coal elevator, leading to his death.

This was not the first time a severe accident has taken place at the company though. An explosion in January of 2014 injured two workers. Initially, the company claimed that no one was hurt, but this was later proven to be false.

OSHA placed $115,000 in fines against Tonawanda Coke, following the incident.

Later, Tonawanda Coke was forced to pay $12.5 million in fines and another $12.2 million to a health study after it was determined that the company went against the Clean Water Act. In addition to that, the company had to pay $12 million in non-criminal penalties.

OSHA explained their reasoning to cite Tonawanda Coke for the 2016 death incident in a statement released Thursday:

“As he prepared to grease and lubricate the elevator, the worker’s jacket was caught, pulling the man onto the rotating shaft. OSHA determined that the employer neither shut down the elevator at the River Road plant in Tonawanda nor locked out its power source, as required by OSHA’s hazardous energy-control, or lockout/tagout, standard. They also found the company failed to train employees on how to use energy-control procedures.”

OSHA says that Tonawanda Coke failed to shut down power sources, guard projecting shafts from employee contact, provide hazardous energy control training to authorized employees, and complete other necessary procedures.

“Training employees on lockout procedures and ensuring those procedures are used would have prevented this needless loss of a worker’s life,” said Michael Scime, OSHA’s area director in Buffalo. “Compounding this tragedy is the disturbing fact that OSHA cited Tonawanda Coke in the past for not following the requirements of the lockout standard. Yet, the company exposed both the victim and another employee who greased and lubricated plant equipment to these same hazards. This is unacceptable. It is Tonawanda Coke’s responsibility to eliminate these hazards once and for all and protect its employees.”

The citations coming against Tonawanda Coke are for two repeated and six serious violations of safety standards in the workplace. Tonawanda Coke could face a total of $175,000 in fines.

The citations can be viewed here.

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