From The Tribune staff reports
BIRMINGHAM – A federal judge sentenced ABC Polymer Industries LLC yesterday for a willful violation of an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standard that caused a worker’s death. The charge involves an incident that occurred on Aug. 16, 2017, at the Helena plant, owned by ABC Polymer Industries LLC, in which a worker was pulled into a cluster of unguarded moving rollers and killed.
U.S. District Judge Annemarie Carney Axon for the Northern District of Alabama ordered ABC Polymer to pay $242,928 in restitution to the family of the deceased worker, a fine of $167,928, and ordered the company to serve two years on probation under conditions of a safety compliance plan.
According to court documents, ABC Polymer operated multiple plastic extrusion lines at its facility, which molded raw materials into flat rectangular plastic sheets. The machinery pulled the sheets through a series of rollers arranged in clusters before cutting them into plastic threads or tapes, which were sold for use in various products. According to court documents filed in connection with the case, the machine at issue in the worker’s death was equipped with a “cage” or barrier guard that could be pulled down over one of the exposed sides of the rollers. OSHA standards require moving machinery such as this to be guarded while the machine is energized.
However, ABC Polymer was aware that its employees routinely raised the guard on its machines to cut tangled plastic off the rollers, thereby operating the machines without the required guarding. ABC Polymer also trained its employees to cut tangled plastic off the rollers while the rollers were in operation. ABC Polymer admitted that it knew or should have known that these practices exposed employees to a risk of injuries and death in violation of federal law.
Federal law makes it a class B misdemeanor to willfully fail to follow an OSHA safety standard, where the failure causes the death of an employee. The class B misdemeanor is the only federal criminal charge covering such workplace safety violations.
This case was investigated by the OSHA of the U.S. Department of Labor.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Robert Posey and Ryan Rummage for the Northern District of Alabama and Trial Attorneys Ethan Eddy and William Shapiro of the Environment and Natural Resources Division’s Environmental Crimes Section prosecuted the case.