EAST PEORIA — Hagel Metal Fabrication Inc. has been cited by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration for safety and health violations in its plant after a 23-year-old East Peoria man was fatally crushed last winter by an automated laser-cutting machine.
EAST PEORIA — Hagel Metal Fabrication Inc. has been cited by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration for safety and health violations in its plant after a 23-year-old East Peoria man was fatally crushed last winter by an automated laser-cutting machine. The company was cited for a total of three willful violations and eight separate serious violations, some of which resulted from two additional inspections at the metal manufacturing plant. A willful violation is one committed with “intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirement, or plain indifference to employee safety and health,” according to OSHA. The agency proposed penalties totaling $317,000. Hagel Fabrication President and CEO David Wrigley said the citations were being reviewed by the company's legal counsel and he had no further comment at this time. Wesley Bernius, of 305 Harmony Ave., was pronounced dead at 10:50 a.m. on Feb. 22 at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria, about an hour after being injured at the plant at 2001 E. Washington St., East Peoria. An autopsy showed Bernius died of head injuries. “The company failed to implement the most basic of safety precautions — and the result was a terrible tragedy. This case demonstrates an egregious disregard of worker safety and health,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA David Michaels, in a prepared statement. “Employers have a responsibility to provide a safe workplace.” Violations included bypassing machine safeguards on two laser-cutting machines, safety measures designed to prevent employees from being in the area of the machine where they could be struck and crushed by moving parts. “This tragedy could have been prevented if the company ensured adequate machine guarding, effective lockout-tagout procedures and worker training on hazards,” said Tom Bielma, OSHA's area director in Peoria. “The company willfully violated OSHA's Machine Guarding Standard, compromising worker safety and well-being.” Among the serious violations were failure to inspect industrial trucks before service and to remove them if they are damaged and maintaining work areas with potentially hazardous accumulations of powder coating dusts. Because of seven prior inspections since 1989, OSHA also placed the company on its Severe Violator Enforcement Program.