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Workplace accidents: Rotating shaft kills maintenance worker

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently announced the outcome of its investigation into the January death of a worker at The Tonawanda Coke Corporation in New York. Investigators determined that, despite prior citations for similar safety violations, the company continued to expose employees to conditions that could lead to fatal workplace accidents. The agency determined that the 60-year-old worker’s death was preventable.

Reportedly, the man was doing maintenance on a coal elevator shaft when the incident occurred. The employer apparently failed to turn off the power to the elevator, leaving the shaft turning while the worker had to apply grease and lubrication. The rotating shaft caught his clothing, and he was pulled into the machine.

OSHA inspectors found that lockout/tagout procedures were not in place. Also, employees received no safety training to inform them of the hazards of moving machine parts and the importance of energy control. Furthermore, the lack of machine guarding exposed employees to amputation and other catastrophic injuries that could result from contact with moving machine parts.

Hopefully, the owner of this New York company will eliminate these hazards to prevent such tragic workplace accidents in the future. However, this will bring no relief for the surviving family members of the man who lost his life in January. They may pursue relief for the financial burdens caused by the unexpected death of their loved one by filing death benefits claims with the workers’ compensation insurance program. These benefits typically cover end-of-life expenses and a percentage of lost wages.

Source:, “OSHA cites Tonawanda Coke after fatal January accident in plant“, Evan Anstey, July 7, 2016

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