A company in Alabama faces a massive fine after admitting a willful violation of safety rules which led to the death of a worker.

ABC Polymer Industries LLC admitted breaking the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standard following an incident at a plant in Helena, Alabama, in August 2017.

The incident saw a staff member pulled into a cluster of unguarded rollers and killed.

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Court documents show the company operated multiple plastic extrusion lines at its facility, which molded raw materials into flat rectangular plastic sheets.

The machines pulled the sheets through a series of rollers arranged in clusters before cutting them into threads and tapes.

The machine involved in the incident was equipped with a cage or barrier guard that could be pulled down over the exposed sides of the rollers.

OHSA standards require these machines to be guarded while the machine is in use.

However, it was revealed ABC Polymer staff regularly raised the guards to cut tangled plastic off the rollers, which meant they were operating the machines without the required guarding.

ABC Polymer admitted it knew or should have known that these practices exposed employees to a risk of injuries and death in violation of federal law.

Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division said: “This victim’s tragic death was entirely preventable.

“Employers who willfully violate OSHA standards are gambling with their employees’ health and lives. 

“We will continue to hold accountable those who fail to follow these critical safety rules.”

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U.S. Attorney Prim F. Escalona for the Northern District of Alabama added: “This tragic loss of life could have been avoided by following federal safety standards.

“We are grateful for the work of our OSHA partners in holding employers accountable for the safety of their employees.

“My office will use the tools available to us to protect Alabama workers and prosecute employers who willfully violate federal safety laws.”

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 conviction means the company faces a maximum $500 fine, r twice the financial gain to the defendant or twice the financial loss to another, whichever is greater, and restitution to the victim.

Sentencing is scheduled for Tuesday, January 24.

This case was investigated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration of the U.S. Department of Labor.

Trial Attorneys Ethan Eddy and William Shapiro of the Environment and Natural Resources Division’s Environmental Crimes Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Robert Posey and Ryan Rummage for the Northern District of Alabama are prosecuting the case.

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