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Car-light maker fined for explosion that burned Illinois worker

On April 20, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) published a news release announcing violations of federal work safety requirements at a central Illinois manufacturing plant. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), part of the DOL, proposed almost $86,000 in penalties for the Paris, Ill., lighting manufacturer’s violation of machine safety (lockout/tagout or LOTO) standards and for failure to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) for employees’ faces and eyes.

Control of hazardous energy in the workplace

The OSHA investigation grew from the 2020 explosion of a plastic molding machine that severely burned the face of a master maintenance technician. Energy within the machine was pressurized when it exploded. The manufacturer should have used “energy control procedures” to prevent harm to maintenance employees.

Controlling the release of hazardous energy stored within a machine or piece of equipment is called a lockout/tagout procedure, a practice to protect workers during maintenance or repair by disabling machines when out of use to protect anyone maintaining the equipment. Federal regulations require industrial employers to follow its LOTO standard to protect workers, including comprehensive training.

The release of hazardous energy can cause severe injuries, including electrocution, cuts and lacerations, amputations, fractures, burns, crushing injuries and others, including death.

Seek legal advice

Any Illinois employee injured in the workplace because of a LOTO violation that resulted in a release of hazardous energy should seek immediate medical attention, give notice of the injury to the employer and apply for workers’ compensation for help with replacement of lost wages, disability and medical bills. If the injuries are disabling and expected to last at least a year or result in death, an application for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) may be appropriate.

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